S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Luschan, Prof Felix von (anthropology)

Born: 11 August 1854, Hollabrunn, Austria.
Died: 7 February 1924, Berlin, Germany.

Felix von Luschan, Austrian medical practitioner and anthropologist, studied medicine at the University of Vienna and anthropology in Paris, obtaining his doctoral degree in 1878. He worked as an army doctor in present Bosnia and, with the British archaeologist Arthur Evans, travelled through Dalmatia, Montenegro and Albania. During 1872-1873 he described human skeletal remains from Hungary in several papers. Subsequently he was associated with the Museum der Anthropologische Gesellschaft in Vienna. From 1880 he was a medical assistant at the Vienna General Hospital and in 1882 lectured at the University of Vienna. In 1885 he married Emma von Hochstetter, daughter of the geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter*.

On 1 January 1886 von Luschan was appointed assistant to the director of the Koenigliches Museum fuer Voelkerkunde in Berlin, Germany, and in 1905 became director of its Africa and Oceania Department. During the eighteen-eighties and -nineties he studied the ethnology of Asia Minor and the Jews, and described various ancient human skulls, paying particular attention to cases of trepanation. He also compiled an anthropological report on the German colonies, Beitraege zur Voelkerkunde der deutschen Schutzbebiete (1897), which included an account of the peoples of German South West Africa (now Namibia). In another paper by him, "Holzegefaess aus Simbabye" (Zeitschrift fuer Ethnologie, 1894) he described a wooden vessel from Great Zimbabwe.

During 1905 he visited southern Africa, where he showed a particular interest in the anthropology of the Khoisan. He used the opportunity to attend the joint meetings of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science and on 18 August in Cape Town read a paper, "On artificial deformation of the human body in Africa", in which he speculated that cultural mutilation of the ears, nose and teeth, as well as trepanning of the skull, originated outside Africa and spread to the continent. On 30 August in Johannesburg he read a second paper, "On the racial affinities of the hottentots", in which he argued on physical and linguistic grounds that these people (but not the bushmen) were related to the Hamitic people of North Africa. This paper was included in the Addresses and papers... published after the meeting (Vol. 3, pp. 111-118).

Upon his return to Germany von Luschan described his visit in "Bericht ueber eine Reise in Suedafrika" in the Zeitschrift fuer Ethnologie (1906). Among others he pointed out that South African stone implements are probably not very old, as they were still being made by the bushmen in historic times. Several further papers on the bushmen followed in the same journal: In "Ueber Buschmann-Malereien in den Drakensbergen" (1908) he described rock paintings encountered on a journey through the Drakensberg mountain areas; "Pygmaen und Bushmaenner" (1914), a review of the racial affinities between pygmies and bushmen, included some information on the distribution of bored stones; while in 1923 he discussed engravings on ostrich eggs by the bushmen.

In 1909 von Luschan became professor at the Berlin Charite Medical School and in 1911 was appointed professor of anthropology at the University of Berlin. He undertook many scientific travels to the Middle East and Egypt and published extensively on the anthropology and ethnology of Crete, New Guinea, Turkey, and other regions. In 1913 he visited Australia and when World War I (1914-1918) broke out travelled from there to the United States. He made anthropological studies of, among others, African-Americans and prisoners of war. In 1927, after his death, his theoretical anthropological study, Voelker, Rassen, Sprachen: anthropologische Betrachtungen, was published. It included a section on Africa.

List of sources:
Addresses and papers read at the joint meeting of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science held in South Africa, 1905 (Vol. 3). Johannesburg: SAAAS.

British Association for the Advancement of Science. Report of the seventy-fifth meeting..., South Africa, 1905. London: John Murray, 1906.

Cherry, M.A. Bibliography of rock art in Natal and Lesotho: 1874-1981. Annals of the Natal Museum, 1982, Vol. 25(1), pp. 173-220.

Felix von Luschan. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_von_Luschan on 2018-6-19.

Goodwin, A.J.H. A commentary upon South African prehistory up to the introduction of the new terminology. Bantu Studies, 1935, Vol. 9, pp. 291-333; bibliography pp. 387-413.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by F von Luschan.

Hillebrecht, W. Unpublished notes for a Dictionary of Namibian biography. Windhoek: National Archives of Namibia, June 2004.

Hubbard, P. A bibliography of Zimbabwean archaeology to 2005, Version 1.0, January 2007. (Electronic document, received from author).

Logan, R.F. Bibliography of South West Africa, geography and related fields. Windhoek: SWA Scientific Society, 1969.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug