COLLECTING YOUR FOSSILS ALIVE
ON A WINTRY evening in 1898, a curious group huddled against the wind in a garden just off New York's Central Park: The American Museum's renowned curator of anthropology, Dr. Franz Boas, several scientists, some museum employees, and a sad-eyed eight-year-old Polar Eskimo, the newly orphaned Minik. They were gathered to bury young Minik's father, Qisuk, who had died of tuberculosis. Following Eskimo custom, the men carefully mounded stones over the grave. Below lay the lifeless body, shrouded in cloth, with a mask over its face. Minik placed some of his father's favorite possessions near the gravestones. He also made his mark along the north side of the grave, a sign to ward off the spirit of the dead man.
But Boas knew what the boy did not. Qisuk's body was not beneath the stones. Museum workmen had created an imitation corpse from a man-sized log. Qisuk's body had been taken directly to Bellevue Hospital's College of Physicians and Surgeons, where an autopsy was performed. After removing the brain for study, technicians cut up and macerated the body, delivering the