Archeology is a funny thing.  Who actually owns archeological items after they're granted permission to be moved for research purposes?

That's at the heart of the debate between Harvard University and Iceland.

According to National Geographic, there are Nordic skulls sitting in a box on a metal shelf in the basement of Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Why are they there? No one really knows, except at one point in history these skulls were used in the university's eugenics research.  Eugenics (I had to look it up, too) is the study of perfecting human genes, thus creating a more perfect human race by eliminating the weaker genes.

Eugenics research was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and at its height was forcing, legally, all kinds of acts to eliminate the weakest (mentally and physically) in our nation.  Yes, it's a chilling thought, but the research and repercussions did happen worldwide in that time period.

Mathew Schwartz via
Mathew Schwartz via

Fast forward to now, and Iceland says it's time to return the skulls to Iceland to be re-united with the bones of the bodies.  According to, that's what both Harvard and Iceland want, but nothing has happened yet.

These Medieval skulls and bones represent the "golden age' of history. Also, Iceland has no indigenous people, as Nordic and Celtic people landed and settled there.

Current archeologists at the National Museum of Iceland are finding it difficult to continue their research projects without the full bodies being reunited.  It's seems like the right thing to do out of respect for the Nordic bones and burial, putting the bones and the skulls together again.

As fascinating as this is, there's still a question of if it will happen.  Only time will tell.

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