Trinity to return human skulls to Inishbofin and apologise for taking them without consent 9 months ago

Trinity to return human skulls to Inishbofin and apologise for taking them without consent

Trinity College Dublin holds more than 484 human remains from all over the world.

Human skulls which were taken from Inishbofin in 1890 are to be returned to the island, after petitioning from the Inishbofin community last year. The decision was approved by the university’s board following research by the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group, which is in the process of examining many aspects of the university’s past.


According to the Times, a dozen skulls were taken from a graveyard by St Colman’s Church on Inishbofin in 1890 by Trinity’s Old Anatomy Museum academic Prof Alfred C Haddon and external researcher Andrew F Dixon. Haddon is said to have openly admitted to smuggling the remains and bringing them to Trinity in a letter.

Since then the skulls have been stored in the college, to be used as part of research in the areas of craniometry (measurement of the cranium) and anthropometry (scientific measurement of individuals). The practice of taking body parts was common in the 18th and 19th century.

Trinity provost Dr Linda Doyle has apologised for the hurt caused by Trinity keeping the skulls, and thanked the Inishbofin community for their engagement:

"We will now work with the community to ensure that the remains are returned in a respectful manner and in accordance with the community’s wishes. I want to thank everyone who engaged with the process that we have put in place to address issues of this nature. I am glad that we have made an evidence-based decision, and that our process allowed all points of view to be heard."


Header image via Inishbofin Heritage Museum and Gift Shop. This article originally appeared on Lovin Dublin.

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