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According to an initial assessment by Professor Winkelmann, it is possible that some of the human remains may come from Freie Universität’s former Institute of Anatomy. Investigations on this possibility are still ongoing. However, even human remains that were received as donations to science can be problematic; the concept of informed consent did not always exist in its current form, which raises ethical questions today. These are questions that must be answered.

Referring to a humerus and a mandibula, Professor Winkelmann also drew attention to the possibility that these human remains could have once been part of the Luschan Collection, and thus may stem from a colonial injustice context. Also known as the “S-collection,” the Luschan Collection was compiled by doctor and anthropologist Felix von Luschan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum of Ethnology). The collection was then distributed among several universities in Berlin in 1925. A large part of the collection came from German colonies in Africa and the Pacific region and was once used for dehumanizing racial research. Originally, this collection contained around 6,300 skulls. However, according to the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, only around 5,500 of these still remain in Berlin.

It was confirmed that the two human remains in question at the Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, originate from the Luschan Collection. For this reason, they have since been transferred to the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte. The provenance of the human remains found at Freie Universität’s zoological collection will also be researched there.

President of Freie Universität Berlin Professor Günter M. Ziegler thanked everyone involved in the working group from the Institute of Biology for their commitment to the project. He particularly highlighted their sensitive and responsible approach to the topic, and the transparent manner in which they went about their work. The teaching staff at Freie Universität’s Institute of Biology were not the only people who were responsible for the project: Museum staff and members of organizations such as Decolonize Berlin e. V., which deals with colonialism and racism both past and present, also played an important role in investigating the zoological collection. Collaborations like these are invaluable, emphasized Professor Ziegler.