"Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s ‘New Hollander’."
The colonisation of Australia, at the end of the eighteenth century, coincided with the birth of (physical) anthropology. In Germany, it was the Enlightenment naturalist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach who began to utilise human skulls as scientific evidence for his hypotheses on human diversity and origin. He assigned selected skulls to be representative of each of his five human ‘varieties’. Due to this very fact, Blumenbach’s own historiographical representation is ambiguous – he has been depicted as both the forerunner of race sciences that were to follow in the 1900s and the humanist and universalist defender of human unity and universal value in the times of slavery. This article discusses how Blumenbach throughout his writing on humanity incorporated his notion of Indigenous Australians. In 1775, he outlined a sequence of human skulls, including those of ‘New Hollanders’, long before he began to assemble his (in)famous skull collection. Roughly fifteen years later, he obtained the skulls of two Indigenous Australian men which then represented the ‘black race’ of his diversified South Pacific ‘Malay variety’. The ‘Neuholländer’ in Blumenbach’s work, arguably, also reflects the tension inherent in his aim to scientifically prove humanity’s unity on the basis of its diversity.