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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Aboriginal skulls may return home
The four skulls have been at the museum for 125 years
A Devon museum has been asked to return four Aboriginal skulls which have been part of its collection for more than 100 years.

Tribal leaders from Australia have called on the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter to let them take the remains of their ancestors back home when they visit the city next month.

The skulls were presented to the museum and have been in its collection for 125 years.

Exeter City Council is expected to approve the repatriation of the skulls at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (Faira) wants the skulls laid to rest as part of a worldwide campaign to return bones taken from graves by European collectors in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Native ground

Aborigines believe the spirits of their ancestors cannot rest in peace until their bones are buried in their native ground.

The skulls are not currently on display in Exeter, and museum curator Len Pole is recommending they are returned to Australia.

"I don't think human remains can be owned by an institution such as a museum, but can be valued and looked after by the dependants of the populations and communities from which they originally came.

"Clearly there is likely to be much greater interest in these items in Australia than in Exeter."

If the council decides to return the skulls, a ceremony is likely to be held at the museum to mark the handover.

Manchester Museum acceded to a similar request from Faira two months ago.

Wrangle over returned skull
29 Jul 03  |  Merseyside
Museum returns Aboriginal skulls
29 Jul 03  |  Manchester

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