The claim that the skulls of Algerians are displayed in the Museum of Man in Paris

CLAIM:  France preserves the skulls of Algerians it killed during the colonization and displays them in a museum.  

MIXED

It is claimed on the social media that France preserves the skulls of Algerians killed during the colonization and displays these skulls in a museum. The claim was also made into news stories supported by images by Milli Gazete and İnternet Haber and shared by a user on Twitter receiving more than one thousand likes.

Tweet: Did you know that France that colonized Algeria between 1830-1962 and committed genocide by killing nearly ten million people displays the skulls of the Algerians it killed in a museum in Paris?

It is true that there are skulls belonging to Algerians in France’s The Museum of Man (Musée de l’Homme). However, the claim that those skulls are currently displayed in the museum is false whereas the possibility that they may have been displayed in the past is debated.

In the ethnological determination procedure applied to eighteen thousand skulls brought from all over the world, it is found that thirty-six of five hundred successfully identified skulls belong to Algerians killed in the nineteenth century.

Several news pieces reporting that the French president Emmanuel Macron contacted the Algerian authorities and stated that they are ready to return the skulls are accessible through the internet.

It is uncertain whether the skulls are displayed in the Museum

In a news report by France 24, it is possible to see the skulls of some Algerians. The first person to uncover that the skulls of some Algerians are kept in the museum was an Algerian historian named Fareed Bilqadi. Bilqadi first discovered the truth about these skulls in 2011.

Contacted with the help of Liselotte Mas from The Observers, historian and anthropologist Ali Fareed Bilqadi noted that the skulls are not displayed in Algeria or France, and kept in a place that is only accessible specialists and officials.

The museum personnel contacted by teyit.org state that the skulls are kept away from the exhibition rooms away from the people’s gaze and are respected as human remains.

The skulls are protected in closed cabinets, far away from the exhibition hall in a specific room. They are not at all visible, and their dignity as human remains is therefore fully respected. This situation prevails now for many decades, and if they have been exhibited it was a long time ago.

It can be seen in a video dated 2015 that the skulls are classified and kept in special boxes.

In addition to these, the allegation that the images accompanying the claim show the skulls of Algerians is not true. It is possible to say that the photographs show a section from the museum which reopened in 2015 after extensive renovations. On Getty Images, where these photographs can be found, a note asserting that the human heads are statues made of plaster accompanies the photographs.

The skull of the renowned philosopher René Descartes is also in the museum

The history of Musée de l’Homme, which can be translated to English as The Museum of Man, goes back to 1880s. Having been opened as a museum of ethnography at the beginning, the museum was converted to a museum of man in 1937. The aim of the museum in which everything about the human species is exhibited is stated as “to collect and protect objects that faced the danger of being lost in the process of colonization and the human evolution”.

The museum which has undergone many renovations since 2009-2015 remained closed during this six-year period.

Among the eighteen thousand skulls in the museum, there are the ones that belong to prominent people, including philosopher René Descartes and sociologist Saint Simon.

The skull of René Descartes in Musée de l’Homme.

Translation: Rumeysa Sena Şahbaz