JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia has asked former colonial ruler the Netherlands to return eight historical artefacts from its museums, including bones of the Java Man, the first known fossils of the Homo erectus species from which humans are believed to have evolved.
Bonnie Triyana, a historian and a member of the Indonesian repatriation team, said the pieces include statues from Java’s Singosari, or the Islamic holy book Koran owned by an Indonesian national hero, and bones excavated in Java in the 19th century by Dutch paleoanthropologist Eugène Dubois, which became known as Java Man.
“The main purpose is to return the items and produce knowledge,” he told Reuters on Friday.
“These artefacts are a sign of a much bigger event.”
From 1800 to 1949, Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands known as the Dutch East Indies, and an important source of wealth, thanks to the trade in spices, precious metals and minerals.
Bonnie said the team’s main focus was state-owned collection in national museums, including Naturalis Biodiversity Center, which houses the Java Man femur and skull. The request was filed in July, Bonnie said.
The education and science ministry in the Netherlands, which coordinates the repatriation process, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Netherlands has previously returned museum pieces to Indonesia, including a dagger owned by the Javanese prince Diponegoro, which it gave back in 2020.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)