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Harvard returns Danish mummies, won’t do same for Catholic saint relic

Must be nice to have Harvard return ancestral items

Harvard University is continuing its quest to return items, except one belonging to Catholics.

The Peabody Museum recently sent 500-year-old Danish mummies back to Denmark.

“The Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology returned five Greenlandic Inuit mummies to Denmark last week, five years after their repatriation was first requested by Danish authorities,” The Harvard Crimson reported.

“The Peabody Museum respects the cultural sovereignty of communities to determine future steps,” a spokesperson told the student newspaper.

Must be nice to have Harvard respect your community.

The university not only repatriates Danish items, but those belonging to Native Americans. The Peabody Museum “provide[s] travel funding for Tribal representatives to come to the museum for the physical repatriation of ancestors and associated funerary belongings,” according to its website.

The museum “has repatriated 10,209 funerary belongings, and as of Feb. 1, the Peabody has repatriated 4,439 ancestors,” The Crimson reported in February of this year.

But the university takes a different approach when it comes to a relic of St. Sebastian, a Catholic martyr.

The university plans to keep this relic, reportedly a piece of the saint, in its Houghton Library. This despite other efforts by Havard to return items identified in its 2022 “Human Remains in University Museum Collections” report.

A spokesperson recently told The College Fix the relic “is held in secure library stacks.”

But that is not where relics belong.

They belong in altars in churches and in reliquaries for people to use as they pray.

They belong in shrines, chapels, and oratories, for Catholics and others to appreciate the courage of someone living a holy life, and in the case of St. Sebastian, dying for his beliefs.

It is a good thing the Danish mummies did not die for their faith – otherwise they might be stuck on a shelf somewhere in a Harvard library.

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IMAGE: Lodovico Carraci/Public Domain

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.