I came across this interesting article chronicling an emerging controversy in Los Angeles. I never knew that human remains had been found in the La Brea tar pits, but a partial skeleton of a young female had been on display until recently in the George C. Page Museum there. At some point, a museum volunteer made forensic-style reconstructive drawings of this young woman. Now the museum is trying to prevent their publication, a move which some claim is designed to help prevent their repatriation.
Are illustrations of human remains tantamount to display of the human remains themselves? Is the display of a cast any different? The forensic reconstructionist apparently used the cast, not the actual skull. But consider the process of making a cast: is not that a greater insult to the dead than merely handling their bones would be? In any case, these forensic reconstructions contain a little too much interpretive latitude: consider the Kennewick man reconstruction whose resemblance to Patrick Stewart has done nothing to quell the notion Kennewick man was ‘Caucasian’. Further, the forensic reconstructions include disturbing “cutaways” revealing the reconstructive process and producing an otherworldly, inhuman appearance (see below).