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Maori skull on its way home after 130 years in Scots museum

The artefact was given to the Museum of New Zealand during a ceremony on Tuesday.

By STV News

Published 17 May 2016.

A Maori skull held in a Scottish museum collection for 130 years is on its way back to New Zealand.

The skull was donated to the Falconer Museum in Forres, Moray, in 1883 but is only thought to have been on display for a short time.

A ceremony was held there on Tuesday when the skull was handed over to a delegation from the Museum of New Zealand.

Moray Council convener Allan Wright said: "We are pleased to be able to return these remains to the Maori people where they rightfully belong.

"It may seem strange and perhaps even macabre for any institution to be in possession of human remains from thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.

"But these things have to be seen in a historical context and in those far-off days it was the only opportunity that people had to appreciate and understand objects from other nations and other cultures.

"However, we now know of and recognise the great importance of these ancestral remains to the Maori people.

The skull is believed to have been taken from the town of Waikouaiti in the Otago region of New Zealand's South Island.

Tribal leaders have been campaigning for decades to have Maori artefacts returned to their homeland.

Museum of New Zealand spokesman Dr Arapata Hakiwai said: "These were dark days when these ancestors were traded, collected and stolen.

"But today we have the opportunity to put right the mistakes of the past and we are very grateful to all the institutions who have shown great sensitivity and respect to reach this milestone with us."

The remains of thousands of indigenous people were taken from New Zealand by European and American anthropologists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many ended up in museums, including the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Kelvingrove and Hunterian museums in Glasgow.

The remains of 107 Maori and Moriori were repatriated from the American Museum of Natural History in 2014.

The artefacts included 35 preserved heads, tattooed skin and 70 skeletons. They were later laid to rest in New Zealand.