Histories and Classification in Timorese Anthropology

Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


The preceding chapters have analysed the epistemic trajectory of the Coimbra collection by focusing on the connections between things and words. This chapter continues this analysis. At Macao, as we saw, practices of classification and description oriented to a commercial framework divorced the human skulls from texts and information. This separation between words and things attested to the absence of historiographical work. Skulls without ‘history’ were, therefore, received at Coimbra Museum. At Coimbra, skulls and words were reconciled, but Macao’s missing historical information was not recovered. The scholars presumed the indigenous identity of the skulls. Anthropology’s coming of age as a scientific discipline at the university paved the way for studying the skulls as evidence of the human races. A student at Coimbra, Barros e Cunha, produced a craniological text about the collection. The purpose was to classify the races of Timor. Consequently, the location of the skulls doubled. Physically, they inhabited the Coimbra museum storerooms, while, epistemically, they found their place in the scientific text enveloped in anthropological language. Therefore, it is the circulation of this text that we must now principally follow, if we are to understand further epistemic developments in the collection.


Ethnic Origin Physical Anthropology Historical Narrative Black Race Human Skull 
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Copyright information

© Ricardo Nuno Afonso Roque 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

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