Article ID: CBB000931386

Skulls without Words: The Order of Collections from Macao and Timor, 1879--82 (2007)


Roque, Ricardo (Author)

HOST: Journal of History of Science and Technology
Volume: 1
Pages: 113--154

Publication Date: 2007
Edition Details: Part of a special issue: “The Circulation of Science and Technology”
Language: English

This article explores the emergence of silent museum objects by analysing a segment of the history of one collection of human skulls. In 1882, a set of thirty-five human skulls from the Eastern half of the island of Timor, a remote and isolated colony of the Portuguese empire in Oceania, was received at the Museum of Coimbra University, where the collection continues to be held today. The skulls were sent by the provincial colonial authorities at Macao, then also a colony of Portugal, included in a larger and heterogeneous consignment of objects destined to the Colonial Museum in Lisbon and to Coimbra University. In taking this episode of travelling of an object collection, this paper touches upon a topic that has been recently feeding on a lively field of studies in anthropology and the history of science. Historians of science have been calling attention to the inherent biographical historicity of `scientific objects' while, within anthropology, `material culture studies' have flourished around the idea that objects are in a state of becoming as they move through different cultural contexts and are put to different uses. Circulations of objects in space and time, their `biographies', can thus be used either to discuss the formation of scientific knowledge, or to access the cultures and meanings of people.


Description On a collection of human skulls in a museum collection and what the “biographies” of the objects can tell us.

Included in

Article Saraiva, Tiago (2007) Editorial Note: Launching HoST and “The Circulation of Science and Technology”. HOST: Journal of History of Science and Technology (p. 7). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Varela, Alex Gonçalves
Beretta, Marco
Larson, Frances
Gosden, Chris
Petch, Alison
Lopes, Maria Margaret
Museum History Journal
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Archives of Natural History
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
Science and Education
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Science History Publications
Oxford University Press
Liverpool University Press
University of Michigan Press
Palgrave Macmillan
History Press
Material culture
Natural history
Portugal, colonies
Veloso, José Mariano da Conceição
Andrada e Silva, Martim Francisco Ribeiro de
Da Câmara, Manuel
Worm, Ole
Whitman, Walt
Zilsel, Edgar
Great Britain
United States
São Paulo (Brazil)
19th century
20th century
18th century
17th century
21st century
20th century, early
Oxford University
Pitt Rivers Museum (University of Oxford)
Universidade de Coimbra

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