January 21, 2008

Scotland gives up Aboriginal Skull

Posted at 1:45 pm in Similar cases

The National Museum of Scotland has agreed to return an Aboriginal skull to Australia, leaving Cambridge & Oxford universities as the only two British institutions to still resist all claims on the repatriation of human remains. Cases that do not involve human remains are unfortunately not progressing anywhere near as rapidly.

The Age (Melbourne)

Scots give up Aboriginal skull
Julia May, London
January 19, 2008

CAMBRIDGE and Oxford universities will become the last two British institutions to resist repatriation requests for Aboriginal remains, after National Museums Scotland agreed to return a Tasmanian Aboriginal skull.

The decision by the Scottish museum is another step in the 20-year battle by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, which, through the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, has also successfully lobbied the British Museum and the Natural History Museum for the return of ancestral remains.

The centre’s legal director, Michael Mansell, was pleased with the unconditional terms of the Scottish repatriation of a Tasmanian skull, and said representatives would collect it next month. However, he expressed concern over six other Aboriginal skulls held by the museum, of which he believed at least two were Victorian and one was from NSW.

“We hope that now they’ve agreed to our request, they’ll agree to other remains being handed over,” he said.

The museum said the Federal Government had requested the return of the other skulls and that this would be considered as soon as possible. It is also returning eight Maori skulls to New Zealand.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: “We considered these individual cases very carefully, looking at the moral, cultural and scientific arguments as well as recent practice in this sensitive area of human remains.”

Cambridge University holds four Aboriginal skulls and possibly two jawbones. A spokesman said the university’s new repatriation policy would be available after January 25. James Worrin, from Oxford University, which holds four Aboriginal hair samples, said: “The issue is still under consideration and there are no developments.”

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