Signs of the savage in the skull?
German investigations of Australian Aboriginal skeletal remains, c. 1860
in Savage worlds
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German perceptions of Australian Aborigines in the nineteenth century have been described as more empathetic than those of British colonisers. While this appears to be true for many Germans in Australia, this chapter shows how physical anthropologists in Germany conveyed a different notion of the Australier through their investigations of human difference. Measuring the skulls and bones of Australia's indigenous peoples, they purported to merely gather the physical "facts", they nevertheless frequently linked their findings to allegations of inferior mental capacities and "uncivilised" cultural or social practises – based on (among other sources) their compatriots' encounter narratives. By ignoring or reinterpreting the latter’s often more positive impressions, German physical anthropologists manifested a "savage world" in Australian Aboriginal human remains. They thereby aligned their often ambivalent skeletal data with the already existent European racialist notion of the "low standing Australian race".

Savage worlds

German encounters abroad, 1798-1914


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