Human Remains at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
The Pitt Rivers Museum is committed to treating human remains with respect and dignity. Over the coming years, the Museum will be making concerted efforts to agree better approaches to future care, restitution and/or curation with originating communities in ways that are culturally appropriate and considered respectful.
Since the foundation of Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884, human remains have formed part of the collections of the University of Oxford, kept in stewardship by the Museum. These remains originate from different continents and different points in time. Some of these human tissues, including, skin, bone, hair, teeth and nails, have been made or modified into artefacts; others are skeletal remains that come from burial or other mortuary contexts.
Over the summer of 2020, the Pitt Rivers Museum removed all human remains from public display (https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/human-remains-pitt-rivers-museum) and is now working to contact descendant communities to agree ways forward.
Information on the collections (including the human remains) has been publicly available for many years on our online database (https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/collections). However, for reasons of transparency and access, we have taken the decision to publish full lists of our human remains in pdf format.
We are sadly aware that human remains have not always been treated with respect and we are now working to ensure that this is no longer the case whilst these items remain in the Museum. We are working with communities to discuss the future of the remains and, on a practical level, are changing the way we display, store, handle and document them.
We are keen to talk to communities about the future care and/or return of ancestral remains in the collections. Should you require further information on any of the remains or wish to discuss the collections, please do not hesitate to contact email@example.com.
- The lists provide an overview of the complete holdings of human remains in the Pitt Rivers Museum and are organized by continent and then country. It is important to note that the lists only provide key data about the remains.
- The lists include not only skeletal human remains but any object containing human tissue, such as hair or skin, of which there are several in the Museum. These objects require specialist examination and we will update the lists as and when further collaborative research provides additional information.
- The lists are designed to inform communities about what we hold from a particular country, region or cultural group.
- There is one list of unprovenanced human remains. These are remains where regrettably we do not know where they come from in the world or how they came to be in the Museum. These remains were found in the Museum or the Museum stores with little or no associated records or information.
- The lists include a small number of objects for which there are records but which cannot be located in the Museum. These objects are marked as 'Not located'.
Lists by Geographical Region
Human Remains from Africa. pdf
Human Remains from Australia & Oceania. pdf
Human Remains from Europe. pdf