Jennifer Barber, a Masters student at the University of Dundee, is reconstructing the face of a young boy that lived in Norway more than 500 years ago. Using forensic arts, she is reconstructing the soft tissue and features of the boy’s face based on the original skeletal features using a series of skull x-rays.
“People are drawn to faces. The Viste Boy will probably attract attention in a future exhibition at the museum, bringing the story of Vistehola, the Viste Boy and the other people who lived there more alive for visitors.”
To learn more about this project, see the article in Science Daily.
Archaeologists at UC San Diego, La Jolla are currently battling for the privilege to study two human skeletons, more than 9,000 years old, recovered during a construction projector at the Chancellor’s home.
The conflict has brought to the head current controversial issues involving NAGPRA (Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act), which gives primary consideration to local tribes (regardless of biological or cultural affiliation with remains or artifacts). Handing the skeletons over to local tribes would permanently bar scientists from studying the remains.
“To give them away without study, would be like throwing the genetic crown jewels of the peopling of the Americas in the ocean,” said Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who is among about a half dozen researchers who have unsuccessfully sought in recent months to sample or study the bones. “It would be a major loss for all, including Native Americans.”
Current representations of the 12-Tribes (the powerful tribal council in the region) has demanded repatriation of the bones immediately in accordance with current laws and practice. This case may serve as a turning point for archaeologists and scientists that have long contested the validity of NAGPRA.
Today, France has returned the first in a series of Mummified remains to New Zealand. The tatooed, mummified head of an 18th century Maori Warrior is on its way home after a long, drawn-out legal battle with the French Government; a move hailed by most as a step forward in relations with Indigenous Peoples and Archaeological ownership.
“This is a great step forward in a vital ethical debate over our museum collections, and above all over human remains that were at times acquired illegitimately,” said Valerie Fourneyron, Mayor of Rouen.
The head will receive further scientific attention in New Zealand before it is reburied with full Maori honors and traditions. You can read about the story in this Reuters Article.