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Australia demands return of aboriginal skulls

Joel Linde · 23 Sep 2011, 15:38

Published: 23 Sep 2011 15:38 GMT+02:00

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For about 50 years, the five skulls and two almost complete skeletons have been housed at the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory (OFL) at Stockholm University on behalf of the Karolinska Institute. They are now set to return home.

“We are prepared for these objects to be returned to their country of origin, and we’ve held them here in safe-keeping,” said university lecturer Jan Storå.

According to a letter sent from the Australian Embassy to the department of education, a request was made back in 2008 for archival provenance work to be carried out at the Karolinska Institute, to find any remains that could be traced to Australia.

“Australian government policy is to support the return of indigenous human remains to their communities of origin wherever possible,” Embassy representative Paul Stephens explained in the letter.

Similar requests have been made in the past, and in 2008 The Local reported that 32 individual remains of indigenous Australians had been returned to Australia from a slew of Swedish museums and universities.

Story continues below…

The Australian Kauma Nation Cultural Heritage Association is now deciding on an appropriate delegate to travel to Sweden and collect the several centuries old remains and bring them back.

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Joel Linde (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:58 September 23, 2011 by Douglas Garner
The headline is grossly misleading. It states that Australia is "demanding" return, but the article proceeds to tell us that Australia needs to decide who will collect the remains which are awaiting shipment! Perhaps we should demand that they collect their property or pay storage fees!!!
19:12 September 23, 2011 by Looking in
The repatriation of Aboriginal human remains is very important to Aboriginal communities and should not be treated as a joke. Aboriginal society, which is the longest continuously surviving culture in the world, requires that Aboriginal people be buried in their own "country", which is the exact geographic area of land that their people came from. Any repatriation process requires that this be accurately determined from the records and then the appropriate elders from that location make the trip to receive the remains and return them for burial. When these remains are returned, all the community will be present and there will be a ceremony to return the ancestor to their own "country". Aboriginal people believe it is their duty to return their ancestors in a dignified way to their place of birth.
19:20 September 23, 2011 by Brianito
I agree "Looking in" .
21:13 September 23, 2011 by sobhan
I hope I will not pay tax for some drunk alcoholic skull shipment!
22:08 September 23, 2011 by diegoveggie
never! they should come pick them up themselves
07:22 September 24, 2011 by Douglas Garner
@looking in ... I agree and understand, but the headline remains misleading and the article clearly states that a large quantity of remains were repatriated several years ago. I maintain that poking fun at journalistic overstatement and/or mis-statement is within the bounds of good taste.
08:33 September 24, 2011 by rise
The headlines usually contains some or all of the words "scam, slam and slur". Now the word "demands" was something rather new! ;)

The words "Sweden" and "Swedish" are also used to completely exaggeration, as if the readers don't understand that the site contains Swedish news although it's named "Sweden's news in English". :P
10:18 September 24, 2011 by Looking in
Yes a large number of human remains were repatriated several years ago from Swedish institutes and museums. One wonders why, in light of the Australian request, the Karolinska institute hung on to these 7 sets of human remains, thereby entailing another round of indigenous elders to travel to Sweden to pick them up. Especially when there is nothing to be learned from them.

Note to Sobhan and diegoveggie--they ARE being picked up at no cost to Sweden, all the way from Australia, from where they were taken/stolen without consent! The argument by the Karolinska that these items are being held in "safekeeping" is an insult to indigeneous people who had them in safekeeping before their theft.
01:41 September 25, 2011 by sobhan
@Looking in

Stolen from the Thieves! Interesting! Why not smash those skulls & throw up in the air?
18:56 September 25, 2011 by Looking in
As many Australian Aboriginal people have told me. There are no white skulls or skeletons in indigenous museums--who then, they ask, are the thieves and the uncultured people?
14:05 September 26, 2011 by Birger Johansson
The problem is that if unique remains are returned the burial may consist of cremation, making further DNA studies impossible.

we are on the brink of being able to track past migrations -as far ago as 50 000 years- by DNA nanalysis. If the skulls have waited a century already, they can wait another decade.
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