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MSU Museum to Return Bolivian Mummy


The human remains of a young Bolivian girl, recently given the honorary title of Ñusta meaning princess in the indigenous language off Aymara will be heading home soon after a 129 year stay at Michigan State University. A special ceremony to mark the transfer is set for Tuesday, January 22 at 6:00 p.m. at the Embassy of Bolivia in Washington D.C. at 3014 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 20008.

The U.S. Consul to Chile brought the human remains, pouches, beads, plant remains, and leather objects associated with the collection to Michigan State University in 1890. The tag associated with the remains reads:

“Bolivian Mummy/This mummy of an eight-year-old girl, a member of the Inca cul-ture of 1500 A.D., is the result of natural drying in an arid part of the Andean Mountains south of La Paz, Bolivia. After death the body was placed in a stone tower, or chullpa, along with leather sandals, a bag of corn, fruit and beans, a sling and a gourd full of small pebbles. This exhibit was presented to the Museum in 1890 by Mr. Fenton R. McCreery, who, at that time, was the U.S. consul to Chile.”

“We’re just thrilled that this is happening,” said Mark Auslander, director of the MSU Museum. “It’s the ethical thing to do, and it’s consistent with the United Nation’s treaty on the rights of indigenous people.”

Ñusta was on display at the MSU Museum from the 1950s, until the early 1970s. Increased sensitivity to the public display of human remains in the early 1970s resulted in the exhibit being re-moved from public view, and the remains and associated objects were placed in secure storage.

The MSU Museum is now working with the Embassy of Bolivia to the US and the Bolivian Ministry of Culture, and the National Museum of Archaeology in Bolivia on returning Ñusta and associated objects through appropriate authorities and channels.

Alejandro Bilbao La Vieja DCM of the Embassy of Bolivia said, “Since Bolivia now is facing a turning point process, it’s so committed to recover its cultural heritage, and we would like to acknowledge that Michigan State University recognizes that it is ethical to let Bolivia recover its cultural patrimony as part of the rights of the indigenous people and their sovereignty.”