Bones of Contention: The Online Trade in Archaeological, Ethnographic and Anatomical Human Remains on Social Media Platforms

  • Damien Huffer
  • Duncan Chappell
  • Nathan Charlton
  • Brian F. Spatola


The poorly regulated international marketplace for human remains is the subject of recent research to document the non-academic trade of former teaching specimens and recently “surfaced” specimens of archaeological, ethnographic or medico-legal import. Expanding the research of Huffer and Chappell (Crime, Law, and Social Change 131–153, 2014), this chapter focuses on Instagram, a platform with a recent history of facilitating other ‘grey’ and ‘black’ market activities but otherwise unexplored with regard to cultural property crime. Manual search methods were used to track relevant hashtags over three two-month periods from late 2015 to early 2016 in order to gather data on the size, geographic scope and diversity of categories of human remains as well as connections among various collecting communities. We conclude by discussing current legislation and future research directions.


Social media Trade in human remains Archaeological, ethnographic and anatomical human remains trafficking 



The opinions and assertions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the US Department of Defense (DoD) or any other US government agency and do not constitute an endorsement by the DoD of any of the opinions expressed or any information contained therein.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damien Huffer
    • 1
  • Duncan Chappell
    • 2
  • Nathan Charlton
    • 1
  • Brian F. Spatola
    • 3
  1. 1.Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.National Museum of Health and MedicineSilver SpringUSA

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