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Germany to return over 900 skulls to Rwanda

Germany to return over 900 skulls to Rwanda

German authorities say they are ready to return hundreds of human skulls taken from their former German colonies in the East African region after having researched their origin for several years.

German East Africa was a German colony during part of the 1800s. It covered areas that included present-day Rwanda, Burundi, parts of Tanzania, and a small region of Mozambique.

Precisely, Rwanda became a German colony in 1899, but after the defeat of the Germans during World War One in 1919, it subsequently became a mandate territory of the League of Nations under the administration of Belgium.

Working together with their African counterparts, German scientists carried out a research at Berlin’s Museum of Prehistory and Early History, where they examined 1,135 skulls.

Of those, it was found that 904 skulls could be assigned to areas in present-day Rwanda; 202 to Tanzania; and 22 to Kenya, while for a further seven skulls, a more precise assignment was not possible.

Many of the skulls originate from burial sites, especially cemeteries or burial caves, but partly also from local execution sites and in some cases also from executions by Germans, according to a statement by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

“The clear objective of provenance research on human remains is to restitute them to the countries concerned,” said Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, an authority that oversees many of Berlin’s museums, including the Museum of Prehistory and Early History.

“We are ready for immediate restitution and are now waiting for signals from the countries of origin,” he added.

In recent years, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has made efforts to return several human remains and artifacts that were stolen by Germans and other European colonialists in the past and ended up in Berlin collections.

Among the most famous artifacts are hundreds of what is known as Benin Bronzes that Germany started returning late last year to Nigeria following an agreement between Berlin and Abuja.

The human remains examined belong to the anthropological collection of about 7,700 skulls that the museum authority had taken over from Berlin’s Charité hospital in 2011.

Due to the size of the collection and the diversity of its geographic origin, it has not been possible to examine all skulls yet, the museum authority said.

The human remains from East Africa, which at the time they were removed was under German colonial rule, were examined first in a test project.

In order to clarify the exact origin of the skulls, for which hardly any written documents had been preserved, intensive archival work was necessary, including field research by Rwandan scientists.

Germany to return over 900 skulls to Rwanda
Germany to return over 900 skulls to Rwanda

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