Page last updated at 01:58 GMT, Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sweden returns skulls to Hawaii

Stockholm's antiquities museum (Handout: The Museum of National Antiquities)
Swedish museums now have a policy of returning looted human remains

Sweden has returned 22 skulls taken from indigenous cemeteries in Hawaii in the 19th Century, in a solemn ceremony at Stockholm's antiquities museum.

Museum director Lars Amreus said he hoped it would "fulfil the spiritual circle" of those whose graves had been violated by Swedish scientists.

Hawaiian delegates said the bones of their ancestors would now be re-buried "in the soil of their birth".

The Swedish government ordered the return of looted human remains in 2005.

Bones have already been repatriated to Aborigines in Australia and a totem pole returned to a tribe in Canada.

Going home

The Hawaiian skulls were returned privately early on Saturday so that delegates could perform traditional rites.

At the public ceremony that followed in Sweden's Museum of National Antiquities, Hawaiian delegation head William Aila thanked the Nordic country.

"I cannot adequately express the thankfulness... for a very, very worthy endeavour, and that is to greet our ancestors and accompany them home," Mr Aila said.

Most of the skulls had been taken from burial sites in the Pacific islands by Swedish scientists in the 1880s.

The museum received five skulls through a donation in 1997, while the other 17 were found at Stockholm's medical university Karolinska Institutet.

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