The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Berlin Medical Historical Museum returning Namibian skulls to tribal leaders
Skulls of Ovaherero and Nama people are displayed during a service attended by representatives of the tribes from Namibia in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. About 60 Ovaherero and Nama traditional leaders and other officials arrived in Berlin, Germany to return about 20 skulls believed to be of Ovaherero and Nama people, killed by the then-German colonial forces during the resistance war in Namibia between 1904 and 1908. AP Photo/Michael Sohn.

By: Kirsten Grieshaber, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP).- Namibian tribal leaders were taking possession Friday of the skulls of 20 of their countrymen, taken by German colonial forces more than a century ago for racial experiments.

The handing over of the skulls is a rare reminder of Germany's short-lived past as a colonial power in Africa, which included the bloody suppression of a Herero and Nama uprising between 1904 and 1908 that left tens of thousands dead.

The heads of four females and 16 males, including a young boy of about three, were removed from their bodies and preserved in formaldehyde intact with faces, skin and hair.

Researchers say the skulls do not show any sign of violence, and it is not clear how the people died, though they were possibly victims of German forces in Namibia at the time, or died in a German-run camp.

Once the remains arrived in Berlin, between 1909-1914, scientists tried to prove the "racial superiority" of white Europeans over black Africans by analyzing the facial features of the heads, said Thomas Schnalke, the head of the Berlin Medical Historical Museum.

In the 1920s, the heads were further dissected until only the skulls remained.

"It is our obligation to return the skulls and offer our apologies," Schnalke told The Associated Press before the ceremony. "It was wrong what they did."

The Namibian government first asked for the return of the skulls in 2008, but it took several years to identify their origin.

A delegation of 73 Namibian tribal leaders, government members and journalists arrived in Berlin earlier this week to receive the 9 Herero and 11 Nama skulls, and attended several ceremonies.

On Thursday, Germans and Namibians came together for a religious ceremony at Berlin's St. Matthew's Church. The 20 skulls were laid out in front of the altar, 18 of them in cardboard boxes draped with the Namibian flag, and two others in glass boxes facing the audience. Several members of the Namibian delegation stepped forward during the service to bow in front of the skulls, singing songs, reading prayers and crying as they begged farewell.

"Today our hearts ache, but as we weep and condemn the evil, we are also grateful to restore the honor and dignity of our ancestors," Neville Gertze, the Ambassador of the Republic of Namibia in Germany said during the church service.

According to Schnalke, Berlin's 7,000-skull collection may contain some more Namibian skulls, but so far these could not yet be identified with certainty.

The museum will continue working on the identification and repatriate further remains once the results have come in, he said.

In order to identify the skulls, scientists at Berlin's Charite University look at inscriptions on the skulls, see if they were catalogued at the time and whether there were any academic publications from the 1910s or 1920s referring to them, Schnalke said, adding that no DNA tests were carried out and that the scientists tried to treat the human remains as respectfully as possible.

Berlin's Charite University a few years ago also signed a letter of intent with the Australian government to return the skulls of 18 Australian Aborigines, but so far their identification has not yet been concluded.

The museum's efforts to return the skulls were supported by the German government, which has committed to help coordinate future efforts to return any other Namibian skulls that that might be identified in the future, the German Foreign Office said in a statement.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Berlin Medical Historical Museum | Namibian | skulls | Thomas Schnalke |

Today's News

October 1, 2011

First exhibition in Switzerland devoted to Surrealism opens at Fondation Beyeler in Basel

Joan Miró's Triptych "Mural Painting I-III" Installed at National Gallery of Art, Washington

Paul Klee & Cobra explored in major exhibition at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark

"Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California" exhibit at the Norton Simon Museum

Roving art show on view at the Provincial Museum brings Pablo Picasso to Cuban masses

Berlin Medical Historical Museum returning Namibian skulls to tribal leaders

New York City's Museum of Arts and Design exhibit focuses on jewelry by famous artists

Cyprus to get back rare 13th-century Orthodox frescoes from United States museum

Doyle New York to auction prints and books from the Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation

Sotheby's New York to offer six works to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation

Leading black contemporary artists featured at Washington's Corcoran Gallery

University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art launches new Robert Rauschenberg exhibition

World record prices achieved at Christie's Travel, Science and Natural History auction

Anri Sala exhibition featuring daily saxophone performances by Andre Vida

Rachel Goodyear exhibition opens at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Celebrating ceramics in the city: The British Ceramics Biennial returns to Stoke-on-Trent 2011

French Ambassador to visit the Dixon in Memphis for Final Week of Forain Retrospective

Daniel Meadows: Early photographic works at the National Media Museum

Sunday Art Fair returning to London this October

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Original 'Star Wars' creators lift lid on special effects challenges

2.- Lost '$170 million Caravaggio' snapped up before French auction

3.- Mansell's 'Red Five' on pole for Bonhams sale

4.- Impressionism's 'forgotten woman' shines in new Paris show

5.- Sotheby's to auction the best-surviving NASA videotape recordings of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

6.- Exhibition explores Dutch and Spanish painting of the 16th and 17th centuries

7.- Cyprus discovers 'first undisturbed Roman shipwreck'

8.- Sotheby's unveils 'Treasures from Chatsworth' with Leonardo Da Vinci drawing, Lucian Freud portraits, and more

9.- Infamous botched art restoration in Spain gets makeover

10.- 1958 Gibson Flying V Korina played by Dave Davies to grab center stage in Heritage Auctions' sale

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful