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Aleš Hrdlička (1869–1943)

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Chapter
In recent years bioarchaeology has become a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse research area in South America in general, and in the Andean Area in particular. Bioarchaeologists are making important contributions to issues such as the peopling of South America, interactions between populations of the coast, highlands, and tropical forest, the possible health impacts of increasing social complexity and state formation, environmental challenges and human adaptation, evidence of warfare, and other research questions. This research is by definition multidisciplinary, involving collaboration between biological anthropologists, archaeologists, and specialists in genetics, geochemistry and other scientific disciplines. These collaborative research programs are producing important new data on the archaeology and history of human occupation of Andean South America.
Article
This article examines the lives of artefacts collected by physical anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička during his expeditions to Peru. In 1910 and 1913, Hrdlička travelled to the Andean nation to gather materials that could shed light on the peopling of the Americas, health and disease in pre-Columbian societies, and the purported racial ‘types' of the region. The study focuses on cultural artefacts the scientist acquired, beginning with these materials’ collection as specimens meant to reveal the racial prehistory of the Andes, and continuing with their classification, display, and exchange as museum objects at the Smithsonian Institution. My analysis of Hrdlička's Peruvian collection draws attention not only to how scientific representations of Peru and the Andes have shifted over time, but also to the way in which a focus on museum objects can elucidate changing notions about the cultural agency of prehistoric populations and their present-day descendants.
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