Switzerland returns centuries-old mummies to Bolivia in historic repatriation ceremony

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 4 Min Read
origin 1Archaeologists put together one in every of three pre-Columbian mummies for transport to Bolivia. ©Credit: AFP

Swiss returned three pre-Columbian, secular mummified bodies to Bolivia, recognizing that that they had been bought with out the consent of their respective homeowners.

The official restitution ceremony befell on the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (MEG), the place the Bolivian Minister of Culture and Decolonization Sabina Orellana Cruz acquired the three mummies.

“What we seek here, beyond restitution, is ethical reparations,” mentioned museum director Carine Ayele Durand, underscoring the broader significance of the occasion.

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Where did mummies come from and the way have been they acquired?

origin 1Panorama packing containers from the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (MEG) containing three mummified human our bodies from the pre-Columbian interval prepared to be returned to the Bolivian authoritiesCredit: AFP

According to MEG, the three mummified folks, consisting of two adults and a toddler, got here from an space across the high-altitude mining city of Coro Coro, situated 4,020 meters (13,190 toes) above sea stage, south- west of La Paz. .

They had been mummified in accordance to the funeral traditions of the time pre-Columbian erathat’s, earlier than the explorer Christopher Columbus arrived on the finish of the fifteenth century and inaugurated European colonization of the continent.

The Bolivian minister recognized them as Pacajes de origen of Aymara origin, a tradition established in the area between 1100 and 1400, recognized for the development of enormous funerary towers referred to as chullpas. The constructions, which will be a number of meters excessive, have attracted quite a few grave robbers and collectors.

Historical accounts point out that Gustave Ferriere, German consul in La Paz, despatched the mummified our bodies and their shrouds to the Geographical Society of Geneva in 1893.

The MEG revealed that these artefacts have been exported from Bolivia and imported into Switzerland with out the consent of their conventional homeowners or any formal authorization.

Federic Ferriere, Gustave’s brother and vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, subsequently introduced them to the town’s archaeological museum in 1895, solely to grow to be a part of the gathering of the traditional ethnographic museum of Geneva six years later.

“Reunited with our roots”

origin 1Members of the Bolivian public middle shot through the ceremony, November 20, 2023.Credit: AFP

The three mummified our bodies have been delicately organized in a crouched place together with their shrouds of woven plant fiber inside wood crates bearing a diplomatic seal.

In specific, the MEG shunned displaying the mummies through the ceremony, citing “moral” causes.

Bolivian Minister Sabina Orellana Cruz mirrored on the that means of restitution, saying: “Today we’re reunited with our roots.”

He highlighted the connection between restitution and decolonization, praising European international locations for his or her return efforts looted objects and human stays.

The MEG, in its dedication to “decolonise the collections”, had knowledgeable Bolivia of the existence of the mummies and established protocols for his or her return.

The ceremony befell towards the backdrop of a rising world motion in which Western establishments more and more return artifacts acquired beneath questionable circumstances or looted centuries in the past.

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