The Insta-Dead: The rhetoric of the human remains trade on InstagramOpen Materials

Damien Huffer1 and Shawn GrahamORCID logo2

1. Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7 Stockholm University, 118 14 Stockholm, Sweden. Email:
2. Department of History, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Email:

Cite this as: Huffer, D. and Graham, S. 2017 The Insta-Dead: the rhetoric of the human remains trade on Instagram, Internet Archaeology 45.


Photos retrieved from a simple search of Instagram for 'Human Skulls',  collected July 10 2017

There is a thriving trade, and collector community, around human remains that is facilitated by posts on new social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, and, until recently, eBay. In this article, we examine several thousand Instagram posts and perform some initial text analysis on the language and rhetoric of these posts to understand something about the function of this community, what they value and how they trade, buy, and sell, human remains. Our results indicate a well-connected network of collectors and dealers both specialist and generalist, with a surprisingly wide-reaching impact on the 'enthusiasts' who, through their rhetoric, support the activities of this collecting community, in the face of legal and ethical issues generated by its existence.

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