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For a long time, human remains were used in universities for teaching purposes. Freie Universität Berlin also harbors such human remains, however, their origin is insufficiently known. Through the initiative of the human biology teaching staff, a project to elucidate the provenance of these human remains was formed at the Institute of Biology at the Department for Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy. Since the start of the project, human remains are no longer being used for teaching purposes as long as ethical questions surrounding their origins are unanswered. The project has revealed that two of the human remains under investigation most likely came from the “Luschan Collection,” and were thus likely a result of colonial injustice. In July 2022, these human remains were transferred to the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Prehistory and Early History), an institution that falls under the umbrella of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation). There, provenance research is being carried out on the human remains in the Luschan Collection. The provenance research project at Freie Universität Berlin’s Institute of Biology was presented to the public on January 17, 2023.

In November 2021, master’s student and human biology instructor Vanessa Hava Schulmann began investigating the origins of the human remains in the zoological collection of Freie Universität Berlin’s Institute of Biology. She was supported in this research endeavor by the department’s human biology teaching staff, including Dr. Vladimir Bajić, Prof. Dr. Katja Nowick, Dr. Alexander Lieven, Dr. Vladimir Jovanović, and Anne Hartleib. During the research, Schulmann documented approximately twenty human skulls, as well as additional human remains such as jawbones, teeth, long bones, foot bones, hand bones, several almost complete human skeletons, and various other human anatomical specimens. Based on the appearance of some of the human remains, as well as their documentation, it could not be ruled out that these stem from a context of colonial injustice. To investigate their suspicions further and gain more insights into the origin of these human remains, the provenance team consulted experts such as provenance researcher and anatomy professor Andreas Winkelmann from the Brandenburg Medical School.