World Archaeological Congress calls on Christies to halt sale of human remains used by Yale Skull and Bones Society.

For immediate release 11 January 2010

The World Archaeological Congress calls upon Christie’s auction house to withdraw from sale a human cranium and two femora offered for sale as items once used by the Yale Skull and Bones Society.  The Skull and Bones Society has long been accused of having the remains of the celebrated Apache chief, Geronimo, and WAC is concerned about the cultural origin of the remains being offered for sale, as well as the affront to human dignity resulting from the sale of human body parts.

“WAC asks Christie’s to cease trafficking in human remains and requests that all possible measures be taken to discover the cultural origin of this individual.” Stated WAC President Claire Smith,  “We cannot overlook the possibility that it may be a skull of a American Indian, and the sale should be stopped in order to determine if federal laws apply.” 

WAC also requests that US law enforcement investigate this proposed sale.  If these remains are found to be Native American, then WAC urges Christie’s to comply with the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and/or applicable state laws.  Regardless of the origin of the remains, WAC urges Christie’s to act in accordance with standards of human decency and withdraw these remains from the auction. 

The World Archaeological Congress bases its objection to this sale on the WAC Code of Ethics, which includes the Vermillion Accord on Human Remains and the Tamaki Makau-rau Accord on the Display of Human Remains and Sacred Objects. 

Dr. Smith noted that the first principle of the Vermillion Accord declares “Respect for the mortal remains of the dead shall be accorded to all, irrespective of origin, race, religion, nationality, custom and tradition.”  She stated “The buying and selling of human remains can not be considered respectful treatment. And the transforming of human remains into a ballot box is poor taste, as well as unethical.”

Dr. Dorothy Lippert, Indigenous Representative on the WAC Executive noted “This auction is incredibly insensitive.  We are concerned that the remains may have been originally obtained through grave robbing by a group of undergraduates, who then further desecrated the remains by carving into them.  This is bad enough, but it is even worse for someone to come along later and try and make a profit out of this.”


Claire Smith, President (Australia)

Mobile: 61 (0) 4243 88925


Dorothy Lippert, Indigenous Representative on the Executive (USA)

Mobile: 571-235-4297



The World Archaeological Congress is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and is the only elected international body of practising archaeologists. WAC holds an international congress every four years to promote the exchange of the results of archaeological research; professional training and public education for disadvantaged nations, groups and communities; the empowerment and betterment of Indigenous groups and First Nations peoples; and the conservation of archaeological sites.