UK museums willing to return skulls to Zimbabwe

London’s Natural History Museum and Cambridge University have said that they are ready to co-operate with Zimbabwe to return human remains that were taken in the colonial era.

The fresh statements come after a delegation from Zimbabwe held talks with officials from both institutions.

The Zimbabweans are looking for the skulls of late-19th Century anti-colonial heroes, which they believe could be in the UK.

But these have not yet been found.

The authorities in Zimbabwe have long suspected that the remains of some of the leaders of an uprising against British rule in the 1890s – known as the First Chimurenga – were taken to the UK as trophies.

The most significant among them was a woman who became known as Mbuya Nehanda. She was executed in what is now the capital, Harare and is revered as a national heroine.

In doing a search of its archive, the Natural History Museum did uncover 11 remains “that appear to be originally from Zimbabwe” – but its records do not connect them with Nehanda. These include three skulls taken in 1893, thought to be from Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, as well as remains uncovered in mineshafts and archaeological digs and later donated.



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