Israel Museum returned Indigenous cultural artefacts to Australia

The Israel Museum has returned a large collection of artefacts to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra.  

The collection, which includes almost 2000 ancient stone tools and ceremonial items, was given to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in the 1970s. 

Source: the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

The transfer of the artefacts, including spears, stone tools, grindstones and other large and small objects, is the first time objects have been sent back from the Middle East as part of the Return of Cultural Heritage program in the Australia Institute of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

Its chief executive Craig Ritchie says to ABC Radio “It is an amazing collection of items from a wide range of places in Australia.” 

The collection was donated to the Israel Museum in the 1970s by Carl Shipman, a German Jew who fled Nazi Germany and come in Australia. 

“He was fascinated” by Aboriginal and Papua New Guinea culture and throughout his life collected many objects from different communities. Explains Mr Ritchie. 

How did they return to Australia? 

In a video recorded, Professor Ido Bruno – Director of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, explains after a delegation of Aboriginal leaders visited the museum in Jerusalem and had saw the collection of artefacts, they had suggested the return of the artefacts to Australia. 

The collection will be returned to their communities where their provenance can be identified.


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