SPK begins research into the origins of human remains in a historical collection from West Africa

News from 09/14/2021

The provenance of human skulls from what was German West Africa is being investigated in a three-year joint research project at the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte. It is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

The collections of the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Prehistory and Early History) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) include 477 human skulls from West Africa that were appropriated under colonial rule. These are now to be recontextualized in a three-year project being undertaken together with scholars from the countries of origin concerned. The project has received funds of around 715,000 euros from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM).

The origin of around a thousand human skulls from the former colony of German East Africa has already been investigated in a pilot project that began in 2017. The experience gained in that will benefit the recently started project on skulls from German West Africa. Hermann Parzinger, President of the SPK: "I am very pleased that, thanks to the assistance of the BKM, we can continue the investigation of these critical collections of human remains, and I very much hope that, together with the countries concerned, we will soon find solutions to the question of how to deal with the skulls. Until that time, we will continue to look after them in dignity and with care."

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