Paul Mitchell

Ph.D. Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

2018 to 2019
Keith S. Thomson Research Fellow

Human Remainders: the Lost Century of the Samuel George Morton Collection

Physical anthropology in the United States begins with Samuel G. Morton. Dozens of explorers, doctors, soldiers, and interested laypeople acquired human skulls from across the world and remitted these to Morton’s “American Golgotha” in Philadelphia, his collection of crania that grew to nearly one thousand in number at the time of his death in 1851. In 1966, after decades in obscurity, the collection was transferred to the Penn Museum. This project documents the material history of this collection and its continuing significance since the time of Morton’s death, as well as Morton’s posthumous legacy. Through the archive of Morton and fellow naturalists and anthropologists Joseph Leidy, James Aitken Meigs, Aleš Hrdlička, Franz Boas, Carleton Coon, and others, this project documents how the history of this notorious collection, and responses to it, contextualizes and textures the scientific and ethical status of human remains collections in American physical anthropology.
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