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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 Qu'ran 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.
Other pieces sought by Indonesia in the Dubois collection include the horse-riding reins of Prince Diponegoro, a Javanese royal who opposed Dutch colonial rule in the 19th century, and the so-called "Lombok treasure" of golden artefacts, the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw reported.
"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.
Asked about Jakarta's request, Dutch education and science ministry spokesman Jules van de Ven on Tuesday said Indonesia made the request "during the summer".
Ven said a government-appointed commission will start a probe in December and make recommendations to Dutch deputy culture minister Gunay Uslu, adding that he could not give a timeline for the work.
Ven added the Dutch government had had "very constructive" discussions with their Indonesian counterparts.
"Not only did we speak about returns, but also about cooperation in scientific studies and exhibitions."
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