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Restitution of Australian Remains 2014

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Restitution of Australian Remains 2014

In a second handover ceremony on 14 July 2014, Charité has restituted more  human remains of Indigenous Australians to Australia. See also the Charité press release.

This handover concerned remains of a total of 14 individuals from Western Australia and from the Torres Strait Islands in Australia's Northeast. 13 skulls were collected by German traveller and scientist Otto Finsch (1839-1917) on the island of Mabuyag in the Torres Strait in 1881. They were sent to Rudolf Virchow in Berlin, who, however, did not find the time to investigate them. After Virchow's death, these skulls came into the "S-collection" of the Berlin Völkerkundemuseum ("Museum of Ethnology"). After a tortuous history, this collection came into the custody of  the Berlin Medical History Museum of Charité. Here, inscriptions on the skulls and lettery by Finsch  made it possible to identify them and to clarify their origin as stated above.

One single skull originates from the region of the Murchison River in Western Australia. The available catalogues and publications of the time suggest that this skull was excavated by a German-born engineer called Streich during an expedition of 1891/1892 exploring parts of Western Australia hitherto unknown to Europeans. Via a medical doctor in Melbourne, the skull then came into the hands of Berlin anatomist Wilhelm Krause, who travelled to Australia in 1897 for scientific purposes. The remains that he collected during that journey were all incorporated into the collection of the Anatomical Institute of Berlin University, now part of Charité.

For more background information regarding this provenance research and the current handover, the reader is refered to this page about the handover of April 2013.