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Fair Necropolis: The Peruvian Dead, the First American Ph.D. in Anthropology, and the Worlds Columbian Exposition of Chicago, 1893 – History of Anthropology Newsletter

Given just how many people participated in the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, it is understandable that historians have used the well-documented presence of a manageable few individuals to illuminate the experiences of the crowd. But sometimes the exemplary are so bright that they wash out the wider experience. In terms of the history of anthropology, for example, Franz Boas has become central to our accounts of the field at the Worlds Fair, despite his own protests that he thought that his collection of biological and cultural materials from the Pacific Northwest were poorly represented (Cole, 1995 [1985]).[1] There is, therefore, much gained by expanding our frame, to consider less lasting lights at the anthropological Fair, whose contributions illuminate anthropologys multiple pasts in a way that helps us move beyond genealogies of its future.[2]

Fig. 1 The Necropolis of Ancn, reproduced at Chicagos Columbian Exposition of 1893 by F. W. Putnam based on the excavations of George Dorsey. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair (Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company, 1893), 633.

This piece explores one exhibit whose lack of study is particularly notable, given the extraordinary real estate and notice it claimed in anthropologys exposition space: a reproduction of the coastal Peruvian Necropolis of Ancn, which organizers billed as probably the largest burying ground, either pre-historic or modern, in the world (Anonymous, 1894). Excavated and mounted by George A. Dorsey (1868-1931)Boass later rival and a student of the fairs anthropological coordinator, Harvards Frederic Ward Putnamits presentation of upwards of fifty wrapped and unwrapped mummy bundles shown as if in the process of excavation apparently attracted more attention than any exhibit in the [anthropological] building (Moorehead, 1984: 20). This was fitting, given that the Ancn display was essential to what Boas, Putnam, and others believed was the anthropological expositions core mission at the Fair: offering a Pre-Columbian baseline against which white American societyand supposedly disappearing Northern Native Americanscould be judged.[3] To do so, Dorsey had spent time, effort, and Putnams money to excavate burial grounds that Peruvianselite and indigenoushad long dug and interpreted for themselves.

The Ancn exhibit therefore helps us reckon with how past scholarship, materials, and lives from the Global South, and not just North American intellectual and cultural currents, shaped this signal moment in American anthropological history.[4] It also helps us re-blaze the path towards anthropologys more contextualized, less universalizing future without falling into assumptions of its role in American colonialism, at home and abroad. For example, it would be relatively easy to compare the exhibit, unfavorably, to the more sensational molds of Mayan ruins Uxmal and Labn mounteden plein airat the Fair, the latter being a more coherent, apparently imperial appropriation of a lost, classical American past (Fane 1993; Evans 2004; Jacknis 2016). Yet there was a centrality, intimacy, and literalism to the Ancn display that Charnays plaster Copn lacked. The Peruvian Necropolis and its bundles filled with bodies and artifacts were the basis for Dorseys subsequent Ph.D. in anthropology, which was the very first awarded to an American in the United States, and the first awarded at Harvard.[5] It also became the gold standard for what Putnam proposed as a new scientific practice for archaeological collection and excavation, in which the indigenous dead were not collected separately from their works and tools, but with them, to reconstruct lives less comparable to those of Europe (Hinsley 2016: 7).

Linking these two points together, I want to suggest that this apparently epistemic shift in how anthropology approached its historical and non-European subject was as informed by the very nature of Peruvian mortuary practicesin which each interment was an archive of the livingas by ethnological debates in Cambridge, or expanding American settler colonialism. In other words, what if the Fairs Necropolis of Ancn, the Peruvian afterlives it tried to translate and contain, and Dorseys recognition of both, were just as integral to the history of anthropology in America as Boas Agonistes?


Dorsey has not been ignored within the Fair literature, but he certainly has not starred. Dorsey was Boass counterpart in archaeology at the Columbian Exposition, but his subsequent work tends to dominate his rapsheet: his curation of anthropology at the Columbian Museum of Chicago, later known as the Field Museum, his rapacious competition with Boas in the Pacific Northwest, and his popularization of forensic anthropology (Cole, 1995 [1985]; Almazan and Coleman, 2003; Browman and Williams, 2013).[6] His work in Peru usually merits a paragraph, if that.

This is unfortunate, as Dorseys collecting in South Americanearly the sum total of his C.V. before he was hired by the Field Museumis exemplary of the blameless relationship that North American anthropologists imagined they occupied with the indigenous dead. Whereas Boasand later Dorseymade their cranial collections in the Pacific Northwest surreptitiously, so as to avoid offending living indigenous peoples, Dorseys digging in Peru happened in the light of day, sometimes even with the help of local Peruviansindigenous and Christianwho believed that their ancestors were gentiles. The Cholos, or native people, Dorsey wrote, tell you that the ancient inhabitants were Gentiles and have no souls, and although in many cases they realize the fact that they are disturbing the remains of their ancestors, yet they are so accustomed to it that they have absolutely no scruples in assisting you in your work. As for the government, up to within a year it has no notice whatever of such work (Dorsey 1894a, 4). This was a self-serving analysisbut it was not a wrong one, at least upon the Peruvian coast, where centuries of looting had changed relations to the past.[7] In Dorseys idealized Peru, authentic pre-Columbian Indians were not in need of salvage. Already murdered and orphaned by Spanish colonialism, they supposedly awaited resurrection by scientific interventions of outsiders.

Fig. 2 Plate 16, Sumptuous Mummy Pack, from Wilhelm Reiss and Alphons Stbel, The Necropolis of Ancon in Peru: A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the Culture and Industries of the Empire of the Incas. trans. Augustus Henry Keane, Vol. 1 (Berlin: A. Asher, 1880-1887).

This could only happen, however, because of how they had been resurrected before. What Peru also offered was an intellectual, anthropological, and even archaeological traditionpopular and elitethat helped Dorsey make sense of what he saw. In terms of environment, Perus climate had encouraged the development of an elaborate, pre-European above- and below-ground cult of bodily preservation. That cult reached its apogee with the mummified Incas, whose description by the Spanish yielded an extraordinary corpus of chronicles and natural histories. This scholarship then familiarized the wider Atlantic world with a Peruvian dead that seemed more ancient and advanced than all other Native American peoples. Even Northern European doubters of Inca and pre-Inca attainments mobilized Peruvian graves as indices of pre-European indigenous achievement, or of a supposed lack thereof. Creole and indigenous Peruvian traditions of learning, subaltern excavation, elite antiquarianism, and museum-building then helped provide a foundation for later nineteenth century North American patterns of anthropological collecting and theorization, from Samuel George Morton to the Harvard Peabody Museum (Gnger 2014; Heaney 2016a, 2016b and 2016c). By 1893, Peru therefore represented a historically significant biological and cultural American population that could be collected at great speed and greater scale, with actual local assistance, and that could then be studied in relationship to a corpus of ethnological literature nearly four centuries old.

Dorsey stepped into that stream with gusto. Charged by Putnam with making collections for the exposition, Dorsey traveled to South America between 1891 and 1892, stopping in Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. His work at Ancnassisted by Lieutenant William S. Saffordwas particularly fruitful. Ancn, just north of Lima, had been a target of digging for decades, if not centuries. It had recently been the subject of an important but hardly exhaustive excavation by two German volcanologists, Wilhelm Reiss and Alphons Stbel, whose massive, illustrated atlases on the site were published in English between 1880 and 1887. Their books’ gorgeous chromolithographsfeaturing composite cross sections of excavations and detailed paintings of mummy bundles, wrapped in vibrantly colored textiles, containing those possessions prized during lifelikely helped to attract Dorsey to the site.[8] [Fig. 2] Once there, he relied upon Good native labor, men who invariably had previous experience; he claimed that they styled themselves as huaqueros, or one who works in huacas, as old ruins and cemeteries in Peru are called (Dorsey, 1894: 3).[9] [Fig. 3]

Fig. 3 Plate 6, Exposed Graves with Mummies of a Simple Type, from Wilhelm Reiss and Alphons Stbel, The Necropolis of Ancon in Peru: A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the Culture and Industries of the Empire of the Incas. trans. Augustus Henry Keane, Vol. 1 (Berlin: A. Asher, 1880-1887). In order to give a better idea of the proportions, two Indian workmen are introduced, as engaged in the work of exhumation. One of them is in the act of withdrawing the body of a mummy already devested [sic] of its cerements (n.p., opposite Plate 6).

Dorsey seems to have offered his own innovations. Blurring the line between archaeology and mortuary ritual, Dorsey found a way to translate the mummy bundles intact and entire: he had his workers expand graves to two to three times their size and then move their contents onto burlap, which could be bundled still further. He was so successful that in June of 1892 he shipped sixty-eight boxes from the port of Callao to New York via Panama, filled with antique silver work, ethnographic materials and the contents of 203 graves, from Ancn, Sierra Gordas, and Chancy. Among them were 180 mummies, most mummified naturally by the Peruvian coasts desiccating sand, in the typical position of preserved Andean dead: interred circumflex, with their knees to the chest, like a seed or embryo replanted.


When he returned, Dorsey and Putnam mounted the collection as impressively as they could, topping Reiss and Stbel by presenting in three dimensions what the Germans had only presented in two. Boass competitive relationship with Dorsey may have also begun at this point. Whereas the formers skulls ended up in glass cases in a forsaken corner of the anthropological exposition, Dorseys collection occupied two large sections of its hall, which were fenced off and filled in with a reconstructed Necropolis. Across an expanse of dirt and sand, the contents of over fifty graves from Ancn alone were placed in varying degrees of imaginary excavation (Dorsey, 1893: 373).

This display sought to illustrate what Dorsey had seen in the field, as well as what these pre-Incas made of their afterlife.[11] As Putnam later explained: Each grave had its mummy done up in its wrappings, and all things found about it were arranged around the mummy bundle, just as found in the grave. Each grave was photographed before the bundle & other things were disturbed & thus we were able to rearrange the objects & show them just as they were found. We also placed the mattings, etc., which formed the roof of the grave in proper position; and in this way we gave to the public a pretty good idea of the burial customs as shown by our exploration of that necropolis.[12] More traditional cases, four in all, contained what was too fragile for open display. One bundles contentsone of the oldest and of considerable wealth, Dorsey believedwent to the anatomical laboratory of Charles H. Ward of Rochester, NY, for its bones to be mounted as a skeleton.[13]

Fig. 4 A Pre-Columbian Shell Game From Peru, The Anthropology Building, Sunday Chicago Herald, 17 Sept. 1893, from the collection of Curtis Hinsley.

The anthropological exposition was largely overshadowed by the Fairs other attractions (Cole, 1995 [1985]), but this reproduction of mummies as bundles, still seated and wrapped, only just emerging from the ground, was haunting, unique in its extent, and touched a nerve in those who saw it.[14] There are ridges of gravel and soil, with mummies in all positions, and skulls, bones, and cloth interspersed, read the Book of the Fair, which called the display the Anthropological buildings most uncanny collection (Bancroft, 1893: 636).[15] The Southwestern pothunter Warren King Moorehead (1894: 20) believed that it was the anthropological expositions most popular. Ethnologist Frank Hamilton Cushing devoted a large share of [his] leisure attention to the Peruvian specimens, which included the artifact collection of Emilio Montes of Cusco, which was itself made up of mortuary offerings. The Peruvian specimens offered a crucial point of comparison, and transition, between the religion of more primitive and prehistoric North American peoples and those of Europe, he thought.[16]

Less expert visitors to the exhibit were fascinated as well. A writer for the magazine Modern Cemetery marveled at the preservation of whole families, from whose sides were hung bags of medicine, with tablets bearing inscriptions which have never been deciphered in this dry, salt gravel these bodies have reposed undisturbed for many centuries and are now taken out in a state of remarkable preservation (Anonymous, 1893). More humorously, a cartoonist for the Sunday Chicago Herald sketched two of the exhibits squatting, cross-legged mummies facing each other. Three overturned shell cups separate them and the mummy in the foreground beckons in a way familiar to any casual ethnographer of the urban American street. A Pre-Columbian Shell Game, the scene is labeled (Hinsley and Wilcox, 2016: 248). [Fig. 4] In yet another sketch, the entire anthropology exhibit is led by a Peruvian mummy playing pre-Columbian pots like a battery of timpani drums. [Fig.5]

Fig. 5 Denslow, Sept. 11Anthropological Building, Sunday Chicago Herald, 17 Sept. 1893, from the collection of Curtis Hinsley.


What happened after the Worlds Fair closed is no less instructive. Dorseys collection was divided between the Field Columbian Museum and Harvards Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, joining the trove of biological Peruviana that had defined the latters collection from its earliest days (Heaney, 2016c). Dorsey, meanwhile, wrote his 1894 dissertation for his Ph.D. in anthropology on An archaeological study based on a personal exploration of over one hundred graves at the Necropolis of Ancon, Peruwhich, again, was the first completed by an American in the United States, let alone Harvard. Its offerings lay more in its panoptic breadth and poetic breathiness than any firmly analytical description of the culture under study. But its description of the past and future anthropological importance of Peru was no mere boosterism.[17] To the would be explorer in Peruvian ruins we would say take plenty of time, more money, and a vast amount of patience, he explained in a more public forum in 1894. With these necessary conditions, a shovel, and a steel rod, there is undoubtedly more of profound interest to reward ones labor than in any other country of the New World (Dorsey, 1894a: 5).[18] For the next two decades, ending with Hiram Binghams highly public fight with the Peruvian government over the ownership of the mortuary contents of Machu Picchu and other Inca sites, North American anthropologists removed more burials from Peruvian bone fields than from any other locale in the Americas (Heaney 2012 and 2016a).

This was partly because the Peruvian mummies were the ideal type for what Curtis Hinsley (2016: 7) has labeled Putnams concept of a new scientific practice for archaeology. This was the total removal and translation of not just skulls, or just a mummy, or an illustrative or well-preserved ethnographic object, but the entire mortuary assemblage. The assemblage would then be kept together and not broken up into object-based study and display, as had happened under the prior tool-obsessed evolutionary regime of American ethnology and museum anthropology. Advising the anthropologist Adolph Bandelier two years later, Putnam noted that objects found in each grave when kept together tell a wonderfully interesting story, and if we thus have the contents of a large number of graves we can reconstruct the past life of the people in a way that never can be done with a heterogenous collection.[19] His example for the method was the Ancn collection, which Dorsey claimed at the time left nothing wanting to tell us the complete story of their daily life; more complete, perhaps, than that of any other ancient and bygone race on the American continent (Dorsey, 1893: 373).[20] This was a claim that was only made possible by the very specific mortuary practices of the ancient Peruvians of Ancn, who wrapped up their dead and their grave goods with layers of fine textiles, creating a near-perfect object of cultural, contextualized analysisand, to push the point, a semi-individualized mortuary actor that then facilitated, or perhaps shaped, North American anthropological practices.

The Ancn story therefore underlines why the 1893 Worlds Fair is so good to think with for the history of anthropologybut also why we are right to assume that the many peoples, projects, and cultures at the Fair beyond Boas and his circle are worth stories of their own. Historians have worked hard to complicate the misperception that what anthropology contributed to the Fair was limited to a project of ethnographic salvage of nineteenth century noble savages displaced by U.S. frontier expansion and Manifest Destiny. As recent work has firmly shown (Hinsley and Wilcox 2016), the voices speaking for anthropology at the Fair were multiple beyond Boas. Yet we need to understand their workas well as that of less studied, non-European actors (Egan 2010, Heaney 2017)beyond the North American indigenous cultures and settings who most typically populate our early anthropological histories. The Ancn example, in particular, shows how planners and participants were acutely aware of non-Anglo, South American intellectual and civilizational presence and precedence, whose contributions became givens within American anthropology as understood by its historians and practitioners. If what was learned from Dorseys contextual collection and presentation of the Necropolis of Ancns dead has been forgotten, that is the compliment of its normalizationthe common-placing of an archaeological practice that has since become so widespread that it has, ironically, been detached from its original context.[21]

We therefore need to treat exhibits such as the Necropolis of Ancn differently. Not as a sideshow within anthropologys historyor as a sop to the crowd, or as solely a discursive expression of European dominance over a non-European pastbut as something simultaneously more central and capacious. This Pre-Columbian aspect to the Exposition in Chicago mattered profoundlymatters, profoundlyas it helps us to hear the voices of the uncanny, indigenous, supposedly un-American bodies whose histories encompass anthropology more than anthropology encompasses them.



The piece is indebted to the editors of the HAN for their tremendously incisive comments, without whom its arguments would have been flat and diffuse; Andrew J. Hamilton, for encouraging Harvard to scan and place Reiss & Stbel online, and for pointing the author their way; and Curtis Hinsley, for his kindness in sharing his scans of the Sunday Chicago Herald with a junior researcher whom he only just met. The author thanks them all.


Works Cited

Almazan, Tristan and Sarah Coleman. 2003. George Amos Dorsey: A Curator and His Comrades. In Curators, Collectors, and Contexts: Anthropology at the Field Museum, 1893-2002, edited by Stephen E. Nash and Gary M. Feinmann. Fieldiana. Anthropology, New Series, 36 (September 30):87-97.

Anderson, Warwick. 2014. Racial Conceptions in the Global South. Isis 105: 782-792.

Anonymous. 1893. An Ancient Cemetery at the Worlds Fair. In The Urn, 2:8.

Bancroft, Hubert Howe. 1893. The Book of the Fair. Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company.

Bernstein, Jay H. 2002. First Recipients of Anthropological Doctorates in the Unites States, 1891-1930. American Anthropologist104(2) (June): 551-564.

Blackhawk, Ned and Isaiah Wilner, eds. Forthcoming 2017. Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Boas, Franz. 2016 [1893]. Ethnology at the Exposition, from A Worlds Fair, 1893: A Special Edition of Cosmopolitan Magazine, December 1893.InComing of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology, edited byCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox, 78-83. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

Browman, David L. and Stephen Williams. 2013. Anthropology at Harvard: A Biographical History, 1790-1940. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Caizares Esguerra, Jorge. 2006. Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations in the History of Science in the Iberian World. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Cushing, Frank Hamilton. 2016 [1893]. Document F Monthly Report of Mr. Frank Hamilton Cushing: September 1893 (inclusive of July and August). In Coming of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology,edited byCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox, 212-231. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

Cole, Douglas. 1995 [1985]. Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press.

Cox Hall, Amy. 2012. Collecting a Lost City for Science: Huaquero Vision and the Yale Peruvian Expeditions to Machu Picchu, 1911, 1912, and 1914-15. Ethnohistory 59(2): 293-321.

Daggett, Richard E. 2009. Julio C. Tello: An Account of His Rise to Prominence in Peruvian Archaeology. In The Life and Writings of Julio C. Tello: America’s First Indigenous Archaeologist, edited by Richard L. Burger,7-54. Iowa City: University of Iowa.

Davis, George R. and F. W. Putnam. 1892. Worlds Columbian Exposition; Chicago, U.S.A. 1893. Plan and Classification, Department M. Ethnology, Archaeology, History, Cartography, Latin-American Bureau, Collective and Isolated Exhibits. Chicago: Worlds Columbian Exposition.

de la Cadena, Marisol. 1998. From Race to Class: Insurgent Intellectuals de provincia in Peru, 1910-1970. In Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995, edited bySteve Stern, 22-59. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Dorsey, George. A. 1893. South American Archaeology at the Worlds Fair. The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal (1880-1914) 15(6):373-376.

. 1894a. Archaeology in Peru. The Archaeologist II/1 (January): 1-5.

. 1894b. An archaeological study based on a personal exploration of over one hundred graves at the Necropolis of Ancon, Peru. PhDdiss, Harvard University.

Egan, Nancy. 2010. Exhibiting Indigenous Peoples: Bolivians and the Chicago Fair of 1893. Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 28: 6-24.

Evans, R. Tripp. 2004. Romancing the Maya: Mexican Antiquity in the American Imagination 1820-1915. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Fane, Diana. 1993. Reproducing the Pre-Columbian Past: Casts and Models in Exhibitions of Ancient America, 1824-1935. InCollecting the Pre-Columbian Past: A symposium at Dumbarton Oaks: 6th and 7th October 1990,edited byElizabeth Hill Boone,141-176. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Gnger, Stefanie. 2014. Relics of the Past: The Collecting and Study of Pre-Columbian Antiquities in Peru and Chile, 1837-1911. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heaney, Christopher. 2012. Las tumbas de Machu Picchu: La historia de Hiram Bingham y la busqueda de las ultimas ciudades de los Incas. Lima, Peru: Fondo Editorial Universidad Catlica del Per.

. 2016a. The Pre-Columbian Exchange: The Circulation of the Ancient Peruvian Dead in the Americas and Atlantic World. Ph.D. Diss., University of Texas at Austin.

. 2016b. A Peru of Their Own: English Grave Opening and Indian Sovereignty in Early America. William and Mary Quarterly (3d ser.) 73/4 (October): 609-646.

. 2016c. Crania Peruviana: Samuel G. Morton, Philadelphias Incas, and an Andean Foundation for American Anthropology. Paper presented to the McNeil Center for Early American Studies Seminar Series, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. (4 November).

. Forthcoming 2017. Seeing Like an Inca: Julio C. Tello, Indigenous Archaeology, and Pre-Columbian Trepanation in Peru. In Ned Blackhawk and Isaiah Wilner, eds., Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press.

Hinsley, Curtis M. 2016. Anthropology as Education and Entertainment: Frederic Ward Putnam at the Worlds Fair. InComing of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of AmericanAnthropology, edited byCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox, 1-77. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

Hinsley, Curtis M. and David R. Wilcox, eds. 2016. Coming of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

Jacknis, Ira. 1985. Franz Boas and Exhibits: On the Limitations of the Museum Method of Anthropology. Pp. 75-111 in George W. Stocking, Jr., ed., Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

. 2016. Refracting Images: Anthropological Display at the Chicago Worlds Fair, 1893.InComing of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of AmericanAnthropology, edited byCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox, 261-336. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

McVicker, Donald. 2016. Patrons, Popularizersm and Professionals: The Institutional Setting of Late Nineteenth-Century Anthropology in Chicago. InComing of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology, edited byCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox, 374-404. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

Moorehead, Warren King. 1984. Anthropology at the Worlds Columbian Exposition. The Archaeologist II/1 (January): 15-24.

Peters, Ann H. and L. Alberto Ayarza. 2013. Julio C. Tello y el desarrollo de estudios andinos en los Estados Unidos: Intercambios e influencias 1915-1950. In Historia de la arqueologa en el Per del siglo XX, edited by Cesar Astuhuamn and Henry Tantalen. Lima: Instituto Francs de Estudios Andinos.

Pillsbury, Joanne. 2014. Finding the Ancient in the Andes: Archaeology and Geology, 1850-1890. In Nature and Antiquities: The Making of Archaeology in the Americas, edited byPhilip L. Kohl, Irina Podgorny, and Stefanie Gnger, 47-68. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Redman, Samuel J. 2016. Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Reiss, Wilhelm and Alphons Stbel. 1880-1887. The Necropolis of Ancon in Peru: A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the Culture and Industries of the Empire of the Incas. trans. Augustus Henry Keane, 3 vols. Berlin: A. Asher.

Rodriguez, Julia. 2004. South Atlantic Crossings: Fingerprints, Science, and the State in Turn-of-the-Century Argentina. The American Historical Review 109/2 (April): 1-42.

Rydell, Robert W. 1984. All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Salomon, Frank. 2011 [1995]. The Beautiful Grandparents: Andean Ancestor Shrines and Mortuary Ritual as Seen Through Colonial Records. InTombs for the Living: Andean Mortuary Practices, edited by Tom D. Dillehay,315-353. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

. 2002. Unethnic Ethnohistory: On Peruvian Peasant Historiography and Ideas of Autochthony. Ethnohistory, 49/3 (Summer): 475-506.

Snead, James E. 2016. Relic Hunters in the White City: Artifacts, Authority, and Ambition at the Worlds Columbian Exposition. InComing of Age in Chicago: The 1893 Worlds Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology, edited byCurtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox,337-361. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press.

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, ed. 1985. Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

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[1] The impulse to focus specifically on Boas is particularly understandable given his importance to anthropology and the cultural, ethical turns it has taken (Stocking 1982 and 1985; Rydell, 1984; Cole, 1995 [1985]; Thomas, 2000). By focusing on the skulls that Boas collected from graveyards on Vancouver Island, for example, we underline nineteenth century anthropologys complicity in settler colonial violence while also hinting at its future. If we squint, we can spotlooming just a few relativistic turns downriverBoass departure for Columbia, his conclusion that skulls were hardly biologically fixed points of racial data, and anthropologys ultimate shift from museums to university departments. This is Boas, and the Fair, as tools of narrative concentration and foresight, magnifying glass and telescope.

[2] Expanding scholarship has underlined the degree to which more popular, sometimes non-white, non-elite actors accessed and shaped anthropology at the Columbian Exposition or in Boass work afterwards (Egan 2010; Hinsley and Wilcox, 2016; Blackhawk and Wilner, 2017). Other scholars have placed the work of Boas and the Fairs anthropological coordinator, Harvards Frederic Ward Putnam, alongside that of supposed amateur and popularizing anthropologists and archaeologists. The most visible contribution of these amateur anthropologists and archeologists was perhaps the Fairs privately organized mountain-sized reproduction of a Colorado buttes cliffdwellers (McVicker 2016; Redman 2016; Snead 2016). I have written elsewhere on how Perus surgeon general, Manuel E. Muiz, came to the fair to present on eighteen pre-Columbian skulls that bore the marks of trepanation, or cranial surgeryan indigenous scientific practice that turned evolutionary models of culture upon their head (Heaney, 2017).

[3] The object of this ethnographical exhibit, as before stated, is to present the means of studying the native peoples in a scientific manner; and, by representing the people who were in America 400 years ago, to form a background to the other departments of the Exposition in which will be illustrated the developments made during the past four centuries. (Davis and Putnam, 1892: 8). Boas (1893: 79) himself ranked American archaeologywhich included the ancient culture of Peru, the age of man in America; the culture of the mound-builders; the archaeology of Central Americaas the foremost feature of the ethnological exhibits. Redman (2016) also shows that the Peruvians remained the benchmark against which Southwestern remains were judged: newspapers reminded readers that the story of the cliff dwellers was unfolded here in America, to take its place beside and confirm the Peruvian record of the early life of man on this continent [sic] (50). This was a factor of centuries of North American awareness of the mummified Peruvian dead, and three decades longer of their being collected in the U.S. (Heaney, 2016a and 2016b).

[4] Thereby answering the challenges of Rodrguez (2004), Caizares Esguerra (2006), and Anderson (2014).

[5] It should be noted that the first Ph.D. in anthropologyfull stopawarded in the U.S. was to the Canadian Alexander F. Chamberlain, who wrote his dissertation under Franz Boas at Clark University in 1891 (Bernstein, 2002: 557).

[6] Dorsey would be accused of baldly robbing native Canadian graves, demonstrating a terrifying superficiality in his archaeological labor (Cole, 1995 [1985]: 166-175).

[7] The single sharpest piece of scholarship on the sharpness of Peruvian folk archaeological knowledge, and the way that its self-identification with the colonial, not pre-Columbian past challenges ethnohistorians sense of scale, and the post-colonial national-archaeological project, is Frank Salomons Unethnic Ethnohistory (2002).

[8] See Pillsbury (2014) for a discussion of Reiss and Stbels importance in terms of thinking about American archaeology, stratigraphy, geology, and deep time.

[9] See Cox Hall (2012), Gnger (2014), and Heaney (2016a) for meditations on the nature of huaqueros knowledge to scientific and antiquarian production in this era.

[10] George A. Dorsey, Contents of sixty-eight boxes shipped from Callao, Peru, June 8, 1892, via Panama to New York, consigned to W. E. Curtis, care of Mr. Roosa U.S. Transport Agent, and Dorsey to C. H. Ward, ? June 1893, both in Harvard University Archives (HUA) – HUG 1717.2 (Putnam) Box 9, Folder 1891-1900, Field Columbian Museum Chicago. The classic work on the vegetal metaphor of Andean funerary practices is Salomon (2011 [1995]).

[11] Subsequent archeological work has since identified Ancn as a largely Wari burial site, between 600-1000 CE (Pillsbury 2014).

[12] F. W. Putnam to Ad. F. Bandelier, 18 February 1895, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (PMAE) Archives 999-24 Frederic Ward Putnam (FWP) Papers, Box 2, Folder 19 (2.19 – F W Putnam Outgoing).

[13] Dorsey to C. H. Ward, (?) June 1893, (HUA) – HUG 1717.2 (Putnam) Box 9, Folder 1891-1900, Field Columbian Museum Chicago.

[14] See Jacknis (2016) for a more general treatment of display at the fair.

[15] Its breathy description should nonetheless be taken with a grain of salt: Some of the bodies are tattooed, and adorned with beads and copper earrings, while on tablets fashioned of cloth, stretched upon frames of wood and painted with figures and characters, are described the virtues of the deceased.

[16] Cushing saw striking analogies between Andean and Aridian (or our own southwestern cultures), but believed its religious iconography so far advanced beyond the Pueblo phase, that it distinctly constitutes the link between prehistoric religion hitherto so little understood, and the historic religions of the Old World so well recorded (Cushing, 2016 [1893]: 220-221, 224).

[17] It is not for nothing that we have talked more of Dorseys counterpart at the Fair, Boas, in terms of lasting personal contributions to the field. The formers subsequent reputation as a popularizer whose stewardship of the Field Museum contributed to “the reputation of Chicago anthropology as a big show run by money and politics, with little legacy in terms of training future anthropologists (McVicker, 2016: 381).

[18] Earlier in the same article Dorsey had described the method by which huaqueros searched for gravesnamely, probing the earth with a steed rod to find places where the rod can be thrust its entire length.

[19] Putnam to Bandelier, 18 February 1895.

[20] It was a combination of the context that Putnam had sought in archaeology since the 1880s, with the non-comparative specificity that Boas had debated with Otis Tufton Mason in 1887 and would try to consolidate with his 1896 paper on The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology (Jacknis, 1985).

[21] This is hardly the sole example of how historians and anthropologists have forgotten the very Peruvian nature of new practices in anthropology and archaeology. Bruce Trigger (2006: 379) has suggestedand I would agreethat the most important methodological breakthrough in the history of archaeology was the pioneering use of surface remains that happened via the settlement archaeology of American and Peruvian excavators in the Vir Valley in the late 1940s.



This post previously mis-attributed molds of Mayan ruins that greeted visitors to the anthropological exposition to Dsire Charnay. Those molds were in fact made by Edward H. Thompson; Charnays were located inside.

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