chapter  3
12 Pages

Saami skulls, anthropological race research and the repatriation question in Norway

ByAudhild Schanche

Between 1850 and 1940, Saami skulls, whether from pre-Christian burial sites or Christian graveyards,were much sought after by many scientific institutions in Norway, other European countries and the United States.The general thesis was that the Saami were a primitive, undeveloped and static human type, one of the ‘leftovers’ of evolution. Apart from the bones, most researchers did not consider that grave finds contributed any valuable archaeological or prehistoric information. Since the Second World War this attitude has changed, mostly due to the Saamis’ own struggle for cultural and political rights.Today, there is a growing acceptance that Saami prehistory is a legitimate field of study in its own right and that the formulation of research policies and ethics is the responsibility of the Saami themselves. One of the ethical issues is the treatment of graves and burial finds.