Repatriations of human remains from Germany – 1911 to 2019

Andreas Winkelmann


While occasional earlier restitutions of colonially acquired human remains, mostly skulls, from German anthropological collections to source communities went largely unnoticed, it seems that such repatriations have 'taken off' since the hand-over of 20 skulls to a Namibian delegation in 2011. It is, however, difficult to get a comprehensive overview of these events, given the German federal system and the diversity of institutions involved. Moreover, there is no standard as to how much provenance research should be conducted before returning human remains and how much detail should be published, if at all. This article reviews repatriations of human remains from German institutions and related publications. It argues for authors and institutions to publish and publicize these events and related research more widely. It also looks at the variability of the political context of these processes and argues for more direct, i.e. government-independent contacts between collecting institutions and source communities.


repatriation; human remains; provenance research; colonial collections

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2020 Andreas Winkelmann

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360