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RBSAP: Historical And Institutional Framework


1. At the beginning of its existence: The Society of Anthropology of Brussels

The Society of Anthropology of Brussels (SAB) was founded in 1882 and, according to its statutes, was aiming at "the study of anthropology in general and more specifically, the study of the populations in Belgium". The members of the society used to meet monthly and elect a new Bureau each year. This Bureau was responsible for the management of the Society and consisted of a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary general, a treasurer, a librarian and a curator of the collections. Besides, a committee of ten members was associated to the Bureau in order to supervise the interests of the Society. The Society was responsible for publishing a newsletter in which were inserted the audit committee meeting as well as the works which had been decided upon, on the advice of commissioners appointed by the Bureau.

Soon after its foundation, the society launched its own bulletin, set up its own library and organized its first excursions.

Following the example of the Society of Anthropology of Paris, SAB has largely devoted itself to the field of biological anthropology. This was obvious in its five first bulletins where about 40% of the topics covered were in this emerging discipline and related to biometry, osteology, paleoanthropology, comparative anatomy, history and the description of ancient human populations. Nearly 30% of the papers have focused on prehistoric archaeology. The internal regulations of 1885 allowed the creation of particular sections for more specific field research (i.e. "Prehistoric Archaeology" in 1885 and "Folklore" in 1887). At the beginning of the 20th century, the special attention to the biological anthropology has moved to criminal anthropology and then to archaeology.

The rise of anthropology and prehistory, marginal at first, had quickly became international and today still many of these societies continue their activities.

In 1928, the SAB was transformed into a non-profit association (A.S.B.L.). The Annual General assembly had to approve the accounts and budgets for the next financial year. It had also to vote every two years on the nomination and discharge of the members of the Board of Directors. The latter was composed of at least six members, including a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary general, a treasurer and a librarian, all together constituting the Bureau. The Board had extended powers and could take any action that deemed necessary to achieve the objectives of the society and to defend its interests. A new internal regulation shortly thereafter decided to create a new position by adding a deputy secretary to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors, at the request of the General Assembly or the Bureau, could appoint the former presidents and secretaries general of the Society and thus constitute a general council.

Finally, the statutes specified that the society head office could be moved by a decision from the Board of Directors. In practice, it was established at the address of the secretary general and the society head office moved accordingly.


2. The SAB became the RBSAP

In 1930, just a few years after the introduction of the new statutes, the SAB was renamed "Royal Belgian Society of Anthropology and Prehistory" (RBSAP), attesting the growing importance of archaeology. The Bulletin of the SAB was then renamed Bulletin of the Royal Belgian Society of Anthropology and Prehistory.

After the Second World War, new statutes were introduced on different occasions. The 1958 statutes specified that the purpose of the society was "the study of Man and the promotion of scientific research related thereto". The statutes have explicitly mentioned that only the general assembly can decide on 1) the appointment and removing the members of the Board of Directors, 2) the approval of the accounts and the budgets of the next financial years, 3) the authorization to acquire, to exchange, alienate or mortgage real estate, 4) the amendment of the statutes and 5) the dissolution of the society. The Board of Directors retained its responsibilities, but was from now on composed of a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary and a maximum of 21 members. Nonetheless, the Bureau was no longer mentioned.

Adjustments were made to the statutes in 1986. The general assembly became able to exclude a member of the society if needed. The Board of Directors obtained the possibility of entrusting the day-to-day management of the Society to a Bureau consisting of a president, a vice-president, a secretary general and a treasurer with the possibility of adding any another member appointed by the Board itself.

In 2000, the statutes of the Society were adapted to bring them in line with the new aims of the Society, namely "the multidisciplinary study of Man and its cultures" and "the promotion and dissemination of scientific research in these fields". The statutes were last amended in 2009 to protect against potential conflicts of interest between its members and their institutions to which they are affiliated.

Today, the society brings together Belgian and foreign researchers specialized in prehistoric archaeology, biological anthropology, genetic anthropology and human palaeontology, whether they are professionals or not.

The RBSAP publishes an annual journal renamed in 1990 Anthropologie et Préhistoire then Anthropologica and Praehistorica in 2000. This publication contains scientific articles by Belgian and foreign anthropologists and archaeologists, annual reports and news of the Society. In addition, RBSAP organizes conferences and excursions every year for its members.


Text of Geert Leloup & Rosine Orban and modified by Kevin Salesse.





Royal Belgian Society of anthropology and Prehistory

Vautier street, 29, 1000 Brussel - Belgium