Engaging a longstanding controversy important to archaeologists and indigenous communities, Repatriation and Erasing the Past takes a critical look at laws that mandate the return of human remains from museums and laboratories to ancestral burial grounds. Anthropologist Elizabeth Weiss and attorney James Springer offer scientific and legal perspectives on the way repatriation laws impact research.
Weiss discusses how anthropologists draw conclusions about past peoples through their study of skeletons and mummies and argues that continued curation of human remains is important. Springer reviews American Indian law and how it helped to shape laws such as NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act). He provides detailed analyses of cases including the Kennewick Man and the Havasupai genetics lawsuits. Together, Weiss and Springer critique repatriation laws and support the view that anthropologists should prioritize scientific research over other perspectives.
Elizabeth Weiss, professor of anthropology at San José State University, is the author of Reading the Bones: Activity, Biology, and Culture. James W. Springer is a retired attorney and anthropologist based in Peoria, Illinois.