Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Will Gerardo L&S Social Sciences

Bioarchaeology and Ethics of Anatomical Skeletal Collections at UCSF

There has been increasing concern about the ethics of using human skeletal remains from historical and archaeological contexts in research and teaching. While emphasis on the unethical practice of taking and holding archaeological Native American and African American ancestral remains is an important focus, the origins and use of South Asian skeletons in anthropology and biomedicine have yet to be thoroughly explored. This project asks: Who are the skeletons that North American biological anthropology and biomedicine students utilize for study, and where were they taken from? What is the relationship between the ‘brown body’ and colonial bodily transformation into skeletonized teaching material? Very little knowledge is known about the presumed individuals that make up the academic skeletal collection from India which are ubiquitous across institutions in North America like the UC system. Combining noninvasive methods with archival research, a bioarchaeological analysis of the provenance and demography of anatomical skeletal collections at UCSF will entail estimations of sex, age, and stature to reveal insights into the dehumanization and biohistorical context of anatomical collections.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to extend an immense amount of gratitude and appreciation to our donor for funding bioanthropological research. Your support in this project will help shed light on ethical issues in the use of anatomical skeletal collections and uncovering the history of global exports in human skeletal remains. For young scholars emerging in the field, your generosity helps student researchers like myself to progress as a future academic and conduct illuminating research.
Major: Anthropology
Mentor: Sabrina Agarwal
Sponsor: Landau Fund
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