Māori skull returned to Te Papa could be one of many treasures coming home

Māori skull returned to Te Papa could be one of many treasures coming home
Photo credit: Getty.

A tattooed Māori skull held in a German museum for 110 years has been returned to Te Papa and other treasures could follow.

Dr Arapata Hakiwai, the Kaihautu (Māori Co-Leader) at Te Papa told RadioLIVE "As we speak we are in negotiations with a large number of museums throughout the world".

Over 16,000 Māori treasures are suspected of being held overseas, and Dr Hakiwai said progress is being made to get them back to their whanau.

Dr Hakiwaki has been involved in the repatriation of Māori and Moriori koiwi tangata for years, including working on a world-wide research project to create global digital databases for ancestral remains.

The skull, which had been stored at Cologne's Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum of World Cultures since being brought from a London dealer in 1908, was given to Te Papa at a ceremony this week.

The skull will remain at Te Papa until descendants can be found, which Dr Hakiwai said can be a long and difficult process.

Dr Hakiwaki acknowledged the Mayor of Cologne and Director of the Cologne Museum for their support in returning the ancestor, which he said was symbolic of a shift in how institutions viewed cultural remains.

"Many museums and nations are saying morally and ethically it is no longer appropriate for [them] to have these ancestral remains in the collection of museums."

The repatriation comes after four mummified Māori heads were returned to New Zealand in 2016 after years of negotiations with the Smithsonian Institution in the US.

Dr Hakiwai said negotiations are always based on a set of principles including for the agreement to be mutual, Māori or Moriori to be involved and for no money to paid for the ancestral items.

Newshub Nation.