The craniological collection of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm: history, pathologies and repatriations

Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, one of the world’s top medical universities, was founded in 1810.  The university’s craniological collection was established between 1862 and 1890, having been assembled during the first half of the 19th century by professor of anatomy Anders Retzius (1796-1860) and expanded under his successors Gustaf von Düben (1822-1892) and Gustaf Retzius (1842-1919). The cranium collection was used by physical anthropologists for researching anatomical variations in human beings – in other words, observable differences in physical appearance. The crania come from a variety of countries; some are archaeological, while others were donated, purchased, traded or collected during 19th century expeditions. Some were used as teaching material. Karolinska Institutet’s Medical History and Heritage Unit is currently cataloguing and documenting the entire collection, producing a digital database which is due for completion in 2018. The osteological analyses have shown up many interesting cranial pathologies, and in the future there will good opportunities for researchers to study the material. Some of the crania of indigenous peoples are being repatriated.

Ms Ann Gustavvson, osteoarchaeologist, archivist/curator, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, will discuss various issues in a talk entitled The craniological collection of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm: history, pathologies and repatriation on Wednesday, 17 January 2018. The presentation is part of The Archaeological Society’s lecture programme, supported by APS Bank, and will be held at 6pm at the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, 173, St Christopher Street, Valletta.

 Photo: From the Karolinska Institutet collection

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