Wednesday, 13 July 2016

What People Collect ("citizen Osteology" or just trophy-collecting?)

This is presumably what the British Museum would call "citizen osteology"   - Conor Gearin 'Hundreds of mystery human skulls sold on eBay for up to $5500' New Scientist 12th July 2016. During a period of seven months it was found that 237 people listed 454 loose human skulls for sale on eBay, with opening bids ranging from one cent to $5500.  Most came from the US, Californian sellers were most prominent with over 50 sales, followed by Missouri with over 30. Ninety-six skulls came from a variety of international locations.
Until last week, eBay’s official policy as stated on its website was that it doesn’t allow the sale of human remains, with two exceptions – “items containing human scalp hair, and skulls and skeletons intended for medical use”. However, sellers could say that skulls were for medical use without proving it, and still sell them as curiosities, says Tanya Marsh at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Following the study’s publication, eBay recently changed its policy to ban sales of all human body parts except hair. [...] While there’s a US law banning the sale of Native American remains, there is no other federal regulation on the sale of human skulls online, meaning that it’s up to states to keep watch. According to the Louisiana Department of Justice researchers, 38 states have laws prohibiting the sale of human remains, but most do little to enforce those laws. “The laws are all over the place,” says Marsh. By her count, only three states  clearly prohibit the sale of human remains: New York, Georgia and Tennessee. She thinks the state laws should be clearer but notes that there’s little interest in changing or enforcing the laws. 
Journal reference: Journal of Forensic Sciences, DOI: : 10.1111/1556-4029.13147

Hat tip: Damian Huffer

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