Indonesia wants to recover ‘Java Man’ artwork from Dutch museums
Identified as the very first discovered example of a homo erectusForerunner of the anatomically modern man, “Java Man” is the centerpiece of an important collection at the Naturalis Museum in Leiden.
It includes a femur and most of a skull, discovered on the Indonesian island of Java by the Dutch anatomist and geologist Eugène Dubois in 1891-92, when Indonesia was still a colony of the Netherlands.
Asked about Jakarta’s request, Dutch Ministry of Education and Science spokesman Jules van de Ven said on Tuesday that Indonesia made the request “over the summer”.
Other pieces sought after by Indonesia in the Dubois collection include the riding reins of Prince Diponegoro, a Javanese royal who opposed Dutch colonial rule in the 19th century, and the so-called ‘Treasure of Lombok’. gold artifacts, according to the Dutch daily Trouw. reported.
Ven said a government-appointed commission will launch an investigation in December and make recommendations to Dutch Deputy Culture Minister Gunay Uslu, adding that he could not give a timetable for the work.
Ven added that the Dutch government had had “very constructive” discussions with their Indonesian counterparts.
“We not only talked about returns, but also about cooperation in scientific studies and exhibitions.”
The Naturalis Museum told Trouw it “understands the Indonesian claim”, but was surprised that Indonesia treats natural history objects the same as historical artifacts.
Java’s skull would not have been found without Dubois, he added.
Indonesia’s approach to its former colonial master follows that of African countries in pressing Britain, France, Germany and Belgium to return historical or cultural objects that were looted during their rule.
In recent years, the Netherlands has finally begun to grapple with the legacy of its colonialism in the former Dutch East Indies.
The archipelago declared its independence in August 1945 after being under Dutch rule for three centuries. Dutch recognition took place in 1949 after four years of fighting.
The Netherlands apologized in February after a study found the Dutch military had used “systematic and extreme violence” during the War of Independence.