Sweden to return Aboriginal remains to Australia

The remains of at least 10 indigenous Australians taken from Australia for scientific research a century ago are to be returned to their native land, a Stockholm museum said Friday.

A ceremony will be held in Stockholm on Monday to mark the return, the second by Sweden after 15 skeletons were sent back in 2004, the Ethnographical Museum said.

The skeletons have been in the Ethnographical Museum and the National Museums of World Culture since being taken from graves in the Kimberley region of Western Australia by a Swedish archaeological expedition in 1910 and 1911.

Anders Björklund, director of the Ethnographical Museum, explained that the expeditionary team had initially travelled to Australia to collect insects, flowers and spices for the Natural History Museum.

But over the course of the trip they made a decision to bring back some human remains.

“There was this idea at the time that Aboriginal Australians were like human fossils, of a kind that had survived longer in Australia than elsewhere,” Björklund told The Local.

At the time, tree burials were still widespread among the indigenous Australians, according to the museum director. After a certain point, the bones would be removed from the tree and taken to a burial cave.

“The Swedish group dragged the bodies down from the trees and cleaned the bones. They then took them out Australia,”

Aware of the fact that it was illegal under Australian law to remove human remains, the Swedes had to come up with a strategy when leaving the country.

“When they got to customs, the researchers said that the bones were from kangaroos,” said Björklund.