The bloody path to science: how the “leading scientist” of colonized Tasmania was exposed 150 years later (5 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 16
1 December 2023

Morton Allport openly traded human remains and had a hand in the extinction of mammal species

Lawyer Morton Allport from Hobart, Australia, made virtually no contribution to science, but in the mid-19th century he managed to earn a reputation as “the leading scientist of the colony.” Now archaeologists have found out how he did it.

In the hands of the deputy director of the University Zoological Museum in Cambridge, Jack Ashby, were letters that Morton Allport sent to Australia and Europe. Moreover, as a researcher writes in the journal Archives of Natural History, this correspondence was dated back to the period of the 19th century, when the genocide of Tasmanian aborigines flourished and the hunt for thylacines (i.e. marsupial wolves) was in full swing, which ultimately led to the extinction of these endemic marsupials region.

This is because early British settlers considered the Thylacine and Tasmanian Aborigines to be a hindrance to colonial development, so "legalized violence to eradicate both" was the answer. In 1830, British settlers in Tasmania even placed bounties on the extermination of the island's indigenous people and the thylacines.

By deciphering ancient manuscripts, Ashby discovered that Allport described himself as the "principal exporter" of Tasmanian Aboriginal remains to Europe and made it clear that he himself directed the looting of the graves. As populations declined, demand for remains in museums and private collections in the Western world increased, and Allport sought to meet this demand.

For example, a lawyer sent the largest collection of thylacines to the University of Cambridge in 1869 and 1871. Also in his “parcels” were the remains of the last Tasmanian, who died in 1869. Moreover, Allport, according to the researcher, ordered the mutilation of the aboriginal’s body.

Archaeologists will continue to study Allport's role in the extermination of people and animals, but now they admit that history itself is when the state sponsors the genocide of the Thylacines and the Tasmanian Aborigines, making them the culprits of what happened to them (they simply “could not cope with the modern world"), is shocking.

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