Palau receives Ancestral remains in repatriation ceremony 

(PHOTO: Island Times)

In a ceremony on 25 March the University of Göttingen and the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony in Germany repatriated human remains of 10 individuals to Palau. 

The remains originated from the Hamburg South Seas Expedition (1908-1910) conducted by the then-Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg. Ethnologist Paul Hambruch collected the remains during a 1909 visit to Palau. 

University of Göttingen president Tolan acknowledged the “dark chapter” in scientific history and apologized to Palau. “Such unethical research should never happen again,” Tolan said. 

Dr Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, director of the State Ethnographic Collections of Saxony, echoed the apology and expressed hope for a future “ethical relationship” between Germany and Palau. 

Dr Holger Stocker detailed the provenance research that traced the remains back to Palau.  

He said the repatriation “would be a prelude to further cooperation.” 

Palau’s Minister of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism and Development, Ngiraibelas Tmetuchl, stressed the importance of acknowledging the past.  

“Finally, the ancestral remains can be laid to rest in their homeland,” he said. 

Tmetuchl proposed a student and scholar exchange programme, along with cultural exchanges, and accepted the apologies offered. 

Research Fellow Mc Michael Mutok Jr of Palau’s Bureau of Cultural and Historical Preservation saw the handover as an opportunity to strengthen ties between the two nations. 

The ceremony concluded with the signing of restitution agreements.