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Leiden archaeologists repatriate human remains to St. Eustatius

Representatives of the Faculty of Archaeology recently traveled to the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius to repatriate human remains. The remains, originally excavated in the 1980s, will eventually be reinterred on the island.

Golden Rock

In archaeological excavations conducted by Leiden archaeologist Aad Versteeg in the 1980s, the remains of nine indigenous individuals were unearthed on St. Eustatius. Alongside the human remains, pottery, shells, and animal bones were also found.

All the materials and the human remains were shipped to the Netherlands for further study, leading to the 1992 publication “The Archaeology of Sint Eustatius. The Golden Rock." The remains and materials were stored in the Faculty's depot ever since. 

Formal request

A request for the repatriation of the remains was submitted by the government of St. Eustatius. ‘We have been wanting to send the artefacts and remains back for a while now,’ Laffoon notes. ‘When the formal request was sent to us via the Dutch Heritage Agency (RCE), we happily agreed to send it all back.’ 


Jason Laffoon is the Head of the Department of Archaeological Sciences. Together with Management Assistant Arthur van Geel, he traveled to St. Eustatius to bring the human remains home. ‘The human remains will be reinterred. The island's archaeological society (SECAR) was very welcoming and friendly. The rest of the materials will be sent by shipping container later this year, to be stored in a depot on the island.’ 

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