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"The Tasmanian Aborigines and the Search for the Missing Link"

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Following the demise of the last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigines in the 1870s, cultural and physical anthropologists posited that the ‘lost race’ had been the most savage human group in the world, and that their decline had been due to their innate biological inferiority. In studying the vestiges of Tasmanian culture and their osteological remains, anthropologists attempted to determine ‘scientifically’ that the Aborigines had been doomed to distinction as a primitive, non-adaptive link in the evolutionary chain. I will attempt to show that such studies, undertaken in the decades immediately following the Tasmanians decline, were employed to account for the extinction of the Tasmanians as an inevitable occurance, and to absolve colonial administrators of blame.

This talk is part of the World History Workshop series.

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