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Dubois archive presented to Naturalis

The oldest paleoanthropological archive in the world, the Eugène Dubois archive, was presented to Naturalis Biodiversity Center on 13 January. Leiden professor, Jan Slikkerveer, who was the owner of the archive and spent years researching it, handed it over to Naturalis Director, Edwin van Huis, under the watching eyes of the Indonesian Ambassador and famous anthropologist Richard Leakey.

Palaeontologist Eugène Dubois (1858-1940) was one of the first people to systematically look for transitional fossils between humans and apes, or the missing link in evolution. His most famous finds are a skullcap and a thighbone of what he called Java Man, but what turned out to be a Homo erectus. These highlights from his collection have already been on show in the revamped Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The 43,000 accompanying articles, manuscripts, books and statues that comprise the Dubois archive were officially added to the Naturalis collection as of yesterday. The collection and the archive have thus been reunited.

Start of a new academic discipline

The archive was handed over in the presence of famous anthropologist Richard Leakey, the Indonesian Ambassador and members of the Dubois family. Naturalis Director, Edwin van Huis, emphasised the importance of the collection. ‘Dubois’s finds from that period should not be underestimated. It was the beginning of a new academic discipline that is still topical and still affects our research.’

The previous owner of the archive, Professor Jan Slikkerveer, has spent recent years researching the archive within the Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme (LEAD). ‘I’m pleased that the collection has finally found a good home. It shouldn’t gather dust in old boxes but should be made accessible to the public. Naturalis can play a role in this by digitising the collection.’

Missing link in evolution

Those present were then invited into Dubois’s story, with a video telling how he found the missing link. The video can also be seen in the ‘Early Humans’ room at Naturalis.

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