• Directory of Taiwan

University of Edinburgh to hand back Paiwan warrior skulls to Taiwan

Remains belonged to warriors who died during battle of Stone Gate in 1874

University of Edinburgh to hand back Paiwan warrior skulls to Taiwan

(Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The University of Edinburgh is set to return four Paiwan warrior skulls in its possession to Taiwan.

The remains are expected to arrive in Taiwan on Nov. 5, after which they will be sent to the National Museum of Prehistory for DNA testing to determine which tribal family they belong to, per CNA. The Mudan Township Office noted that historical records indicate the Japanese army seized the skulls of 12 Paiwan warriors following the 1874 battle of Stone Gate (石門之役), some of which were taken to Japan and the U.S.

After negotiations with local tribal councils and the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the university agreed to return the human artifacts. Mudan Mayor Pan Chuang-chi (潘壯志) will lead a delegation consisting of local leaders, shamans, and scholars to the U.K. and conduct traditional Indigenous rituals as part of a return ceremony.

According to the Mudan Township Office, Japan launched a military expedition to Taiwan in 1874 following the Mudan Incident of 1871, also known as the Pa Yao Wan Incident (八瑤灣事件). Japanese troops engaged in intense warfare with the Paiwan tribe in southern Taiwan, culminating in the battle of Stone Gate, during which several Paiwan warriors, including a chieftain and his son, perished.

A few days later, Japanese forces launched another attack, targeting the Mudan and Kuskus villages. The villagers took refuge in the mountains and engaged in guerrilla warfare.

As Japanese soldiers began to fall ill due to the harsh environment, negotiations for a ceasefire were conducted with the Paiwanese, ending hostilities between the two sides. This series of events are also collectively known as the Mudan Incident (牡丹社事件) and a memorial has been erected on Shimen Mountain to commemorate the historic battle.