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Maori remains to be returned to homeland

June 25, 2004|From Associated Press

LONDON — Three 19th century Maori heads that were hidden away in a Glasgow museum for more than 50 years will be returned to their native New Zealand, the Glasgow City Council decided Thursday.

Council members voted unanimously to repatriate the tattooed preserved heads, called toi moko, along with an 18th century leg bone of a Maori warrior chief and several other artifacts.

The items were donated to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow between 1900 and 1950 but never put on display.

"There's a different attitude around now compared to that rife in colonial times, when the gruesome practice of collecting human remains was a hobby," said John Lynch, head of the council's cultural and services committee.

"Thankfully, times have changed and in a civilized society, sending these artifacts back was the right thing to do."

New Zealand's Te Papa Tongarewa museum has campaigned for several years for the return of Maori remains taken as trophies by travelers and amateur scientists in earlier centuries.

Officials estimate there are about 200 such items, from skulls to jaw and leg bones, in museums and other collections around the world.

The New Zealand museum would try to trace the tribal origins of the remains so they could be returned for burial, Lynch said.

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