Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Herero skull of the Bürgel Memorial Potsdam

funding area Colonial Contexts Grant recipient Landeshauptstadt Potsdam / Urania Wilhelm Foerster Potsdam e.V. State Brandenburg Website Contact person
  • Prof. Karin Flegel
    Projektbericht_Ansprechpartner_FunktionURANIA "Wilhelm Foerster" e.V.
    Telephone: +49 (0) 331 - 29 17 41
Project type Einzelrecherche zu Einzelobjekt Funding duration
  1. March 2020 to November 2020


The association Urania Wilhelm Foerster has been the sponsor of the Bruno H. Bürgel memorial on behalf of the city of Potsdam since 2001. The memorial preserves the legacy of the Berlin or Potsdam astronomer, science journalist and writer Bruno H. Bürgel (1875-1948). In 2018, a skull was found in the unidentified inventory of the memorial, which is very likely to come from today's Namibia. From the historical inscription on the skull it can be assumed that it is the skull of a Herero family member, which was acquired in 1905 during the colonial war by the German protection forces against the Herero and Nama 1904-1908. However, the closer acquisition contexts are unknown. Since then, the association Urania Wilhelm Foerster and the city of Potsdam have sought to return the skull to Namibia. A prerequisite for this is a provenance examination in order to obtain a valid certainty about the origin of the skull. The project therefore examines, on the one hand, the historical contexts in which the skull was acquired and the history of the skull since it was acquired by Bürgel. For this purpose, contemporary records, correspondence, publications, etc. are consulted in the Bürgel estate and in archives, and former and current curators of the Bürgel estate are interviewed. The biological-anthropological examination of the skull complements the historical research to clarify the provenance. The skull is examined macroscopically or magnifying macroscopically, invasive methods are not initially planned and will only be used after consultation.

© Urania Wilhelm Foerster Potsdam e.V., August 2020