German university plans to repatriate all colonial-era remains 

1 min read
Te Herekie Herewini from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa stands by a Maori bust in the "Forum Wissen" at Göttingen University. Credit line: Swen Pförtner / AFP / Profimedia

An international team of researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany is inspecting the colonial past of more than 1,000 human remains in its collection. 

The bones are mainly skulls from Asia and Oceania, most of which arrived illegally in Europe during the colonial era.

The aim of the research project “Sensitive Origins” is to return the bones to their countries of origin, said project member Jonatan Kurzwelly.

The university is prepared to return all the remains from its collections, said project staff member Holger Stoecker. 

In any case, research and teaching with human remains linked to colonial-era looting is forbidden at the University of Göttingen, he added. 

Since the research project began in summer 2020, human remains have already been returned to Hawaii and further restitutions to Australia and New Zealand are planned.

Most of the bones originated from the late 18th century or before.

The repatriation of looted goods from colonial times has become a central cultural debate in Germany, especially when it comes to valuable art objects such as the Benin Bronzes. 

Many of these metal sculptures from the former Kingdom of Benin, now known as the Edo State in Nigeria, will be returned in the course of the year according to a landmark deal between the two countries, while others will remain on loan in Germany. ©dpa

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