Au 00839

Please find more information about the object below the image.

Producer unknown to us


Australia, Queensland

Prior to 1908

Wood, carved

Hermann Klaatsch (anthropologist, paleontologist)

Purchased by the museum from Klaatsch in 1908

Au 00839

This shield (balan bigin) was made from light buttress roots. The painting symbolizes the totem of its former owner. The object comes from the Palmer River area, where a gold rush began in 1872. The affected communities defended their land against the prospectors, who killed, evicted, or forcibly relocated the inhabitants. Large areas of forest were cleared and converted to sugar cane plantations. After violent conflicts, the anatomy professor Hermann Klaatsch took the objects to sell them to museums, which offered considerable sums of money. This is how he financed his prolonged expedition in 1904/05. 

Our museum is resolving the question of how these objects can be returned. As for the complete Australian collection, we have deposited the data in Australia in AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies). Doing so provides the opportunity for targeted provenance research and restitution claims by the respective communities.

Birgit Scheps-Bretschneider