Jobs Events Advertise

Hobart man traded Aboriginal human remains for acclaim

Eelemarni Close-Brown -

New research has revealed a Hobart lawyer traded Aboriginal body parts and Tasmanian Tiger skeletons to European collectors in exchange for scientific acclaim.

Among the human remains were those of William Lanne.

Morton Allport, who would eventually become vice-president of the Royal Society of Tasmania, built his reputation by robbing graves for body parts of Indigenous people and exchanging them for scientific honours.

Morton Allport also sent Tasmanian Tiger skeletons and skins to collectors. (HANDOUT/UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE)

He also sent Tasmanian Tiger skeletons and skins to European collectors and museums in a quid pro quo arrangement for recognition.

At the time, a genocide was being waged against First Nations people in Tasmania and the thylacine was being hunted into extinction.

Allport's activities came to light in research by Jack Ashby, the assistant director of the University Museum of Zoology at Cambridge, who studied a series of letters kept at the State Library of Tasmania.

His research explores the human and environmental costs of colonisation and its links to documenting natural history.

Allport sent five Tasmanian Aboriginal skeletons to Europe, proudly admitting in letters he directed the grave-robbing himself.

"Early British settlers considered both thylacines and Tasmanian Aboriginal people to be a hindrance to colonial development - and the response was institutionalised violence with the intended goal of eradicating both," Mr Ashby said.

One of Allport's victims was William Lanne, who was known as King Billy and considered a "prize specimen" because he was believed to be the last original Tasmanian man.

William Lanne was the partner of Truganini and a well-respected Aboriginal activist who died from cholera and dysentery at the age of 34 in 1869.

Allport instructed that Lanne's body be mutilated before and after his exhumation.

Allport's activities came to light in research by Cambridge researcher Jack Ashby. (HANDOUT/UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE)

In 1830, British settlers in Tasmania established the first bounties encouraging violence against Tasmania's first peoples and the thylacines.

"Although Allport did not send any human remains to Cambridge, I can no longer look at these thylacine skins without thinking of the human story they relate to," Mr Ashby said.

The Tasmanian Tiger remains sent to the University of Cambridge by Allport were the UK's biggest collection of the species from a single person.

Rebecca Kilner is head of Cambridge's zoology department.

"We have long appreciated that their natural history can help us understand more about the natural world and how to conserve it," Professor Kilner said.

"We now realise that the social history behind our collections is just as important."

Morton Allport proudly admitted in letters to having directed the grave-robbing himself. (HANDOUT/STATE LIBRARY OF TASMANIA)

The human remains sent by Allport to the United Kingdom are no longer held in British collections – they were either destroyed by bombing during the Second World War or have since been returned to Tasmania.

"Understanding why and how animals were collected, including the underlying political and social motivations, is key to understanding and addressing some of the social inequalities that exist today," Prof Kilner said.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Eelemarni Close-Brown - AAP

   Related   

Ipswich State High rugby league girls excel in empowering event with Iron Traks
On Thursday, Year 11 and 12 Rugby League girls from Ipswich State High participated in a collaborative event by Iron Traks, Wome...
Joseph Guenzler 23 Feb 2024
Directions hearings continue ahead of inquest into 2021 death in custody of young mum
The latest directions hearings concerning a 30-year-old Yamatji, Noongar, Wongi and Pitjantjatjara woman who died in custody at...
Jarred Cross 23 Feb 2024
In a heartbeat: smart watches helping to close the gap
When Aunty Mary Waites joined a research trial aimed at helping to reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease in Abori...
Rudi Maxwell 23 Feb 2024
Groote Eylandt residents call for land council probe
Hundreds on a remote Northern Territory Island have called on the federal government to investigate "potential gross misconduct"...
Neve Brissenden 23 Feb 2024

   Eelemarni Close-Brown   

Partner sues prisons over Indigenous inmate's death
A woman is suing the NSW prison system and inmate healthcare service over the death in custody of her partner after a coroner fo...
Duncan Murray 15 Feb 2024
Uluru resort could hit the market as owners mull sale
The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation is exploring options for the Ayers Rock Resort, the only place for tourists to stay when...
Rudi Maxwell 15 Feb 2024
Darlington set for National Indigenous Cricket Championships return
Australian international Hannah Darlington is set to return to the National Indigenous Cricket Championships after being selecte...
Callan Morse 15 Feb 2024
Tasmania to field youthful men’s squad at National Indigenous Cricket Championships
Tasmania has announced a youthful men’s squad for this year’s National Indigenous Cricket Championships, the tournament set to t...
Callan Morse 15 Feb 2024