"Skulls of different lnsulan tribes" - The skull collection of Ernst Albert Fritze in the Museum Wiesbaden

Funding area:
Colonial contexts
Funding recipient:
Museum Wiesbaden
Cooperation partner:
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. Universitätsklinikum Frankfurt, Institut für Rechtsmedizin
Federal state:
Contact person:
Dr. Andy Reymann




Type of project:
short-term project
Project duration:

Among the more than 1 Million objects in the collections of the department for natural history of the Museum Wiesbaden exists a small a small ethnographic collection, which includes a bundle of 12 human skulls with the provenance of Dr. Ernst Albert Fritze.

Fritze, who was in the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) from 1817 as a military doctor and achieved great renown during his lifetime as a reformer of the medical system in Sumatra and Java as well as a naturalist, was also an honorary member of the Nassau Society for Natural History and supplied it with numerous natural history objects from 1833 at the latest.

Although Fritze was well known in his time and is frequently mentioned in the writings of his student Junghuhn, very little has been collected on his person. And also the provenance of the human remains remains so far in the dark.

On June 7, 2023, one oft he skulls, a Toi Moko, was repatriated to a delegation of Maori and Moriori representatives as part of the Karanga Aotearoa program in the presence of Angela Dorn, Hesse's Minister of State for Science and the Arts, and Craig Hawke, New Zealand's ambassador. However, the remaining 11 skulls remain in Wiesbaden. In order to learn more about the origins of the collection, the Museum Wiesbaden has been granted funding for a cooperative project with the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University Hospital in Frankfurt am Main and researchers from the Department of Dutch Studies at the University of Cologne. The goal is to obtain additional information during the term by means of non-invasive forensic and source research in the archives of the Dutch East India Company, which can help in determining the origin and further handling.

© Museum Wiesbaden