Swedish Museum Wants to Return Three Polynesian Skulls


A Swedish university said Sunday it wants to return three human skulls that researchers collected in French Polynesia in the 19th century.

The skulls arrived in Sweden in 1884 aboard the royal frigate Vanadis, which had stopped in Tahiti and in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Swedish ethnographist and archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe was among those on the voyage.

Anne Ingvarsson Sundstrom, curator of the University of Uppsala's Gustavianum Museum, told the regional Uppsala Nya Tidning newspaper that the institution "wants to make things right."

She said the university, which was approached by a Polynesian association, had recommended to the Swedish government that the skulls be returned.

The state must decide on the bones' fate, as it is technically the owner.

Sundstrom said the skulls were taken as part of research into the difference between races.

"Many researchers simply had an interest in other people and cultures. But this wasn't done in a good way," she said.

In recent years, Western institutions have returned artifacts to the countries from which they were collected.

In June, Germany returned a 600-year-old mummy to Peru, and last year it returned 20 skulls to Namibia.

Also in 2011, Norway returned two Maori heads to New Zealand.

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