After 82 Long Years, Maori Remains Leave Cardiff and Head Home to Be Laid to Rest; Wales' Curators Agree to Return Bones for Burial
Byline: Darren Devine
FOR more than 80 years the remains of a dozen Maoris have lain, not in their ancestral graveyards, but in storage boxes at Wales' National Museum.
But today those bones will begin a long journey back to their native soil, after curators at the museum agreed to return them to New Zealand so that they can be laid to rest.
The bones are thought to have been brought to Wales around a century ago after being obtained by aVictorian collector.They have been in the Cardiff museum's possession since it opened in 1927. Research suggests the specimens were originally brought from Ahuahu or Great Mercury Island, just off the New Zealand coast, and officials have now decided they should be returned out of respect for Maori spiritual beliefs.
Aspecial ceremony will be held at the Museum today to prepare 12 koiwi tangata (Maori ancestral remains) for their journey home. The remains consist of one largely complete woman's skeleton and skull bones from 11 other individuals. One of the skull bones is that of a woman, while five are from men. The sex of the remaining five cannot be determined.
The private repatriation was arranged by the museum in conjunction with the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa.
Richard Brewer, keeper of archaeology at the National Museum, said little is known about how the remains, which have been confirmed as Polynesian, were brought from New Zealand to Wales. But it's thought Great Mercury Island, from where they are believed to have originated, was home to about five thousand Maori until 1800.
Mr Brewer said: "In the late 19th and early 20th century there were a lot of people travelling and collecting things from around the world.
"They were acquired by museums and you've got to remember in those days travel wasn't easy so things were brought to the public in museums rather than people travelling to see them."
Mr Brewer said the remains might have been "purchased" by a traveller from the local Maori or simply "discovered". …