Germans hand over Ainu skull taken from Japan grave in 1879

BERLIN (AP) — A German research group has handed over to representatives of Japan’s Ainu ethnic group a skull that a German took secretly from a grave in Japan in 1879.

Alexander Paschos, the chairman of Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory, said the group decided to return the skull as a “goodwill gesture.”

From right, Alexander Paschos chairman of the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory overhands a box with of a skull of Japan’s Ainu people to Hirahide Hirai, leader of the Comprehensive Ainu Policy Office and Tadashi Kato chairman of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido during a ceremony at the Japanese embassy in Berlin, Monday, July 31, 2017. The skull was taken by German Georg Schlesinger in 1879 from an Ainu grave in northern Japan and now official given back to the Ainu communities by the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The skull, which was taken by Georg Schlesinger from a grave on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, had been kept in the society’s archives. It was handed over Monday in a ceremony at the Japanese Embassy in Berlin.

A box containing a skull of Japan’s Ainu people is on display during a ceremony at the Japanese embassy in Berlin, Monday, July 31, 2017. The skull was taken by German Georg Schlesinger in 1879 from an Ainu grave in northern Japan and now official returned to the Ainu communities by the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

In 2008, Japan’s parliament voted to recognize the Ainu as indigenous people for the first time and urged steps to reverse a century of discrimination and poverty.

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