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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 18:57 GMT
Aboriginal remains tests halted
Natural History Museum
The remains will be returned to Australia at the end of March
London's Natural History Museum has pledged not to conduct intrusive tests on Tasmanian aboriginals' remains.

The High Court agreement will be in place until a four-day hearing to discuss the matter on 22 February.

In November the museum agreed to return the remains to the Australian government after three-months of study.

But Geoffrey Robertson QC, for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, said the experiments were causing "torment" to the souls of the dead.

Lawful possession

Mr Robertson said the torment would only stop when the remains were properly buried according to Aboriginal custom

The remains include the skull of an aboriginal person, thought to have been illegally exported to Britain in 1913, and the remains of 17 indigenous individuals from Tasmania.

Mr Robertson said that after the aboriginal population of Tasmania was wiped out by massacre and disease a number of grave robberies took place.

Some remains ended up in the lawful possession of the Natural History Museum from various collections over 100 years ago, he said.

Laser scans

Mr Robertson said that the museum agreed to their repatriation at the end of March 2007, once scientific studies had been carried out.

Speaking on behalf of the Natural History Museum, Richard Clayton QC, said it acknowledged the "sensitive and human dimension" to the claim and had taken into account the ethical issues arising from it.

He said that scientific work into what was a "unique resource" about mankind's origins had been carried out for decades.

Mr Clayton said the current intended research involved photographing, CT scans and surface laser scans of skulls, DNA analysis of selected skulls plus slivers being taken from some of them.




SEE ALSO
Bone return consultation launched
28 Jul 04 |  Science/Nature
Science speaks out on bone return
19 May 04 |  Science/Nature
Aborigines back UK bones panel
05 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature
Science argues to keep bones
16 May 03 |  Science/Nature

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