do you have any idea how fragile a real one is?
i don’t trust the TSA with a real one
Plus I’m totally cool with using real ones to do research but using a real one as a prop to explain teaching methods is something I’m personally not super keen on. I take my work with human remains very seriously- when I’m working with skeletal elements, I prefer to be in a clean laboratory setting and away from the public eye. A lot of this has to do with where the real ones come from. If you bequeath your body to a university, there’s a lot of rules in place about what they can keep and where it can be used. Most of the time the remains aren’t allowed to leave university property. But if you go out and buy one for personal use, the odds are very, very good that you’re buying stolen bones. Most human skeletal specimens openly for sale today are stolen from India- even though the trade’s illegal, the laws are poorly enforced. The same is true of China- although they officially banned the bone trade in 2008, if you know where to look it’s very easy to find Chinese specimens.
As an anthropologist, one of my big ethical sticking points is that anthropology should serve as a tool to uplift people. I think that human remains are an amazing way to study the past- and the present. Bones have so much to tell us. I think that we should be actively curating bequeathments and building comparative collections and using human remains to train the next generation of anthropologists. But if we’re going to study remains, we need to respect the individuals they once were (some would say still are) and we need to respect the survivors/descendant community (if there is one). I couldn’t in good faith do public work with a specimen of unknown provenience, knowing what I know about where it likely came from- that totally undermines what I believe in. And I couldn’t travel with a specimen of known provenience because that’s not allowed by my museum or my university and even if it was I would be way too worried about something happening to it.