Human Remains from Palau return home

The University of Göttingen and the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony have handed over ancestral human remains to a delegation from the Republic of Palau. The human remains from the collections in Göttingen are those of seven individuals, those from the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony those of three individuals. The formal handover took place on Monday 25 March 2024.

Ceremony for the restitution of human remains to Palau on 25.03.2024

The human remains taken from Palau were acquired in the course of the “Hamburg South Seas Expedition” (1908 to 1910) of the then Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg. Ethnologist Paul Hambruch travelled to the Palau archipelago as a member of the expedition in 1909 and collected several human remains. In the 1950s and 1960s, they were handed over to the University of Göttingen. University President Tolan spoke of a dark chapter in science and offered his apologies to Palau. Such unethical research should never happen again.

Prof. Metin Tolan, President of the University of Göttingen

Dr. Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, Director of the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony, also offered her sincere apologies for wrongdoing in the past. She added she was hoping for a joint ethical relationship between Germany and Palau in the future.

Dr. Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, Director of the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony

Dr. Holger Stocker outlined the historical origins of the human remains and how they were traced back through provenance research. He added he was hoping that the restitution would be a prelude to further co-operation.

Dr. Holger Stoecker from the „Sensitive Provenances Research Project“

Minister Ngiraibelas Tmetuchl, Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism and Development, Republic of Palau, stated that acknowledging the past was important. He said that finally the ancestral remains could at last be buried in their homeland Palau. He also made a proposal for the future: To start an exchange of students and scholars between the two countries and also to embark on a cultural exchange. He added that he accepted the apologies offered.

Minister Ngiraibelas Tmetuchl, Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism and Development, Republic of Palau

Research Felllow Mc Michael Mutok Jr. from the Bureau of Cultural and Historical Preservation of the Republic of Palau pointed out that the handover presented a good occasion to move forward and establish a closer relationship between the two countries. Finally, the restitution agreements were signed.

Signing of the restitution agreements

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