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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 195–220 | Cite as

Decolonising the Broken Hill Skull: Cultural Loss and a Pathway to Zambian Archaeological Sovereignty

  • Francis B. MusondaEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

For more than ninety years, between 1921 and 2012, our knowledge of the Broken Hill Man phase of human evolution has been provided by scholars who have been able to access the skull in England, where it was taken in 1921. This paper presents findings of the circumstances under which the skull was discovered in Northern Rhodesia and taken to England, its significance to science, and issues relating to its return to Zambia. The study grew out of the disillusionment of Zambians due to the reluctance of the Natural History Museum in London to repatriate the skull to its country of origin. The study has established that despite the existence of a legal framework in Northern Rhodesia to regulate the removal of relics from the territory, which was then under the administration of the British South Africa Company, the Rhodesia Broken Hill Mine Company donated the skull to the British Museum (Natural History) without obtaining an export permit. It is within the context of the findings and arguments advanced by the parties involved in the claim of ownership that this paper advocates for the return of the skull to Zambia.

Keywords

Broken Hill Man Repatriation Restitution Illicit traffic Hominin 

Résumé

Pendant plus de quatre-vingt-dix ans, c’est-à-dire entre 1921 et 2012, notre connaissance concernant l’évolution humaine durant la période de l’homme de « Broken Hill » nous a été donnée par les chercheurs qui ont eu accès au crâne en Angleterre où on l’avait amené depuis 1921. Ce document présente les résultats de la recherche sur les circonstances qui ont mené à la découverte du crâne en Rhodésie du Nord, son transfert en Angleterre, sa signification par rapport à la science et aux questions relatives au retour du crâne en Zambie. Cette étude a été inspirée par la désillusion de la part des Zambiens concernant la répugnance des autorités du Musée de l’histoire naturelle à Londres de rapatrier le crâne dans son pays d’origine. Cette étude a établi le fait que, malgré l’existence d’un cadre juridique en Rhodésie du nord régissant l’enlèvement des vestiges du passé du territoire qui était alors gouverné par le « British South African Company », la Société minière de Broken Hill a fait don de ce crâne au musée britannique (de l’histoire naturelle) sans permis d’exportation. C’est dans le contexte des résultats et des arguments présentés par les parties concernées dans la revendication de droit de propriété que ce travail préconise le retour du crâne en Zambie.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of historyUniversity of ZambiaLusakaZambia

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