14 January – 1 March 2020. The National Museum of Finland will return the human remains and grave goods of its Mesa Verde archaeology collection to the representatives of the indigenous people of the United States of America. Before the collection’s grave goods are returned, they will be exhibited at the National Museum.
The grave goods exhibited at the museum include pots, bowls, a digging stick, an axe blade and a corncob from the graves of about 20 Pueblo people from the 13th century, by estimate. Food and drink and personal tools and items were stored in jars and other containers that were given to the deceased for their journey into the afterlife, as life was thought to continue even after death. Most of the 28 grave goods of the collection to be returned together with the human remains are displayed here, with the exception of a single willow mat.
The Mesa Verde collection and the repatriation decision concerning human remains came up in the meeting between President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and President of the United States Donald Trump in October 2019, but the actual repatriation process has been prepared for years. The returning of artefacts to their countries of origin, i.e. repatriation, is a topical issue worldwide that affects museums with ethnographic or archaeological material from other cultures.
The collection of geologist and botanist Gustaf Erik Adolf Nordenkiöld (1868−1895) was bequeathed to the State Historical Museum, the predecessor of current National Museum of Finland, by its holder, collector Herman Frithiof Antell in 1890s.
Mesa Verde items are exhibited free of charge at the room next to the museum’s Central hall.