Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity

By David Hurst Thomas | Go to book overview

4.
A SHORT HISTORY OF SCIENTIFIC RACISM IN AMERICA

Racial determinism was the form taken by the advancing wave of the science of culture, as it broke upon the shores of industrial capitalism. It was in this guise that anthropology first achieved a positive role alongside of physics, chemistry, and the life sciences, in the support and spread of capitalist society.

-- Marvin Harris ( 1968), Anthropologist

WHEN COLUMBUS AND Queen Isabela debated whether to enslave the Indians of the Caribbean Sea, they were rehearsing arguments first articulated in antiquity. Beyond the civilized world of classic Greece and Rome lay the land of the barbarphonoi (literally, the speakers of bar-bar). The "barbarians" wore only skin clothing, behaved unpredictably, and refused to submit to proper religious and legal guidance. Beyond the known barbarians--whom Aristotle considered natural slaves--was the land of the "monstrous races." According to the Roman Plinius, some sported but a single eye in the middle of the forehead, others had dog faces, and still others walked upside down.

This three-part split into the civilized, the barbarian, and the monstrous

-36-

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