The Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria is a group that promotes the study of archaeology, anthropology, ethno-archaeology and ethno-history in both Australia and further abroad. Lectures, from a range of talented presenters, are held every third Thursday of the month at 6:30pm at the The Kathleen Syme Library & Community Centre – 251 Faraday St, Carlton.
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**Online Lecture**: Thursday 17th of June, 2021, @ 6.30pm

Getting a Head at All Costs: Tracking and Exposing Online Trafficking in Human Remains within its Socio-Cultural Context

Presented by Dr Damien Huffer
This presentation summarizes ongoing research occurring within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funded The Bone Trade Project (https://bonetrade.github.io/). In general, this project is beginning to identify and map the online human remains trade across various social media and e-commerce platforms. As a summary presentation, I will highlight key points of methods from the digital humanities and machine learning used to investigate how this collecting community functions, what we can ‘remotely’ know of their complex morals and ethics, how they negotiate a complex legal landscape, and from which populations the human remains trafficked possibly originate. The examples given will be discussed in the context of how and why counteracting the human remains trade is relevant to the preservation of global cultural heritage, questions of possible medico-legal import, and the concerns of descent communities.

Dr. Damien Huffer was most recently a postdoctoral fellow (2017 – 2019) within the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology & Classical Studies, Stockholm University. From 2014 – 2016, he held the Stable Isotope Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute/Division of Anthropology, and he received his PhD in Osteoarchaeology in 2013 from the ANU.

As a co-founder of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online and an interdisciplinary antiquities trade scholar, he works to raise public awareness about the existence and complexities of the ‘niche’ market that is the traffic in human remains as but one component of archaeological and criminological research into the global traffic in cultural heritage. This research forms the core of his current collaborative work using digital humanities and machine learning methods to improve what is known about how the informal and organized networks that facilitate these trades via social media and e-commerce platforms operate, form community and avoid detection.

In addition, his current research also looks to the Colonial-era past to understand collecting practices in the present. Currently focused on Southeast Asian and Pasifika collections, this research involves conducting non-destructive osteological and taphonomic assessment of 18th to early 20th century culturally modified human remains held in Western museums, in conjunction with archival research, to illuminate aspects of ownership history and provenience not otherwise documented and simultaneously provide data relevant to law enforcement when they seek to better understand the nature of allegedly Indigenous modified crania seized in transit or observed for sale online.


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