To sum up all the recent returns would be a harrowing litany. To cite a few: last year the Field Museum in Chicago returned the remains of three Tasmanian Aboriginal people; in 2011 the Natural History Museum in London returned the skeletal remains of 138 people to the Torres Strait Islanders in Australia; and in 2008, the remains of 180 people from a bulldozed ancient mound were returned to the Onondaga Nation by the New York State Museum. In 2013, the remains of Julia Pastrana, held at the University of Oslo, were finally buried. Pastrana was exhibited as a human freak in the 19th century due to her hypertrichosis terminalis condition that covered her face in hair; her mummified body was toured after her death and traded hands as an oddity. In 2002, the remains of Sarah Baartman were interred in South Africa after being on display for decades at the Museum of Man in Paris. Like Pastrana, Baatman had been exhibited as a 19th-century spectacle during her lifetime, labeled the “Hottentot Venus” for her reportedly round buttocks and elongated genitalia.
November 25, 2016 at 6:00 AM EST