'Apewoman' to leave Norway for Mexico burial

The Local Norway
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'Apewoman' to leave Norway for Mexico burial
Photo: Wikimedia

The remains of Julia Pastrana, the so-called 19th century "apewoman", are set to be returned by Oslo University to Mexico where she will finally be laid to rest.


152 years after her death in Moscow the remains of the woman which have been kept for research purposes in Norway since the 1920s will be returned to the country of her birth, according to a letter from the university to the ministry of education published in the Uniforum journal on Thursday.

Julia Pastrana was born in 1834 in Sinaloa, Mexico with the disease hypertrichosis terminalis. It meant that she had strong hair growth in both the face and the rest of the body and an oversized jaw.

Charles Darwin described her as "Julia Pastrana, a Spanish dancer, was a remarkably fine woman, but she had a thick masculine beard and a hairy forehead... and her face had a gorilla-like appearance".

Her unusual appearance meant that she was in demand at markets and circuses and she was exhibited as a hybrid between ape and a human and was also at times known as "Bear Woman".

Pastrana died aged only 26 on tour in Moscow in 1860, 3 days after giving birth to a child with a similar appearance. She had previously married circus director Theodore Lent and after her death Lent contacted Moscow University to have his wife mummified, displaying her in a glass cabinet for the remaider of the tour.

In 1921 Norwegian carnival owner Earl Jaeger Lund bought her remains, and until the 1950s, they were shown at the Lund amusement park. After a public outcry following the announcement of a proposed tour of the USA, the exhibit was finally removed from display.

The remains were eventually stolen from a warehouse in Groruddalen in August 1979, before they later ended up at the University of Oslo. The remains have rested in a sealed coffin at the Department of Anatomy in Oslo since 1997.

In June 2012 the National Commission for research on human remains recommended that the woman should be returned to her homeland Mexico for burial. It is unclear when the funeral can take place, but it's going to happen as soon as scientific tests have been taken, according to Uniforum.


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