Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Christopher Heaney — Empires of the Dead

In this episode of Perspectives, we speak with Christopher Heaney, author of Empires of the Dead: Inca Mummies and the Peruvian Ancestors of American Anthropology. Bringing together the history of science, race, and museums' possession of Indigenous remains, from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, Empires of the Dead illuminates how South American ancestors became coveted mummies, skulls, and specimens of knowledge and nationhood. In doing so it reveals how Peruvian and Andean peoples have learned from their dead, seeking the recovery of looted heritage in the centuries before North American museums began their own work of decolonization.



Christopher Heaney received his Ph.D. from University of Texas at Austin. He is Assistant professor of Latin American History at the Pennsylvania State University, and a previous Dissertation Research Fellow at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.




Closed-captioning available on YouTube.

Recorded on October 13, 2023.

Insights from the Collections

The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of Andean societies, anthropology, and the collection of human remains. See the Consortium search hub to find more.

Materials related to this topic include:

Albert S. Ashmead papers, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Andean Collection, Yale University

Bureau of American Ethnology papers, Smithsonian Institution

Collection of Peruvian manuscripts, 1790-1800, 1820, American Philosophical Society

Henry Allen Moe papers, American Philosophical Society

Peruvian collection, 1583-1892, Duke University

Samuel George Morton papers, American Philosophical Society

Samuel George Morton papers, Library Company of Philadelphia

Yale Peruvian Expedition papers, Yale University

Join a related Working Group for monthly discussions:

History of Anthropology

Collection Ecologies

Collections and Collecting

Science, Technology and Medicine in Latin America


See also work from our fellows:

Rosanna Dent, Studying Indigenous Brazil: The Xavante and the Human Sciences, 1958-2015

Paul Mitchell, Human Remainders: the Lost Century of the Samuel George Morton Collection