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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 10:00 GMT
Peaceful end for Maori head row
Illustration of the two preserved Maori heads/Perth and Kinross Council
The disputed heads are in a museum in Perth
A dispute over human heads which were acquired by a Scottish adventurer is set to reach a peaceful conclusion - after almost 200 years.

Councillors in Perth are likely to agree on Wednesday to return the ancestral items to the Museum of New Zealand.

The tattooed heads, known as toi moko, are stored in Perth Museum.

But they are sacred to the Maori, who are demanding the return of the preserved remains.

They were sent to Scotland by adventurer David Ramsay, a Perth-born ship's surgeon, who settled in Australia in 1822 and set about collecting curios.

Some were of international significance, and extremely rare.

Hunt for origins

The heads are no longer on public display because of the sensitivity surrounding the issue.

The council said it made their value to the museum limited.

Members of the Lifelong Learning Committee are set to agree to a formal request to return the heads to their place of origin.

The Museum of New Zealand will then have the task of tracing the community from where they originated.

The head for the Maori is the most sacred part of the body, it embodies one's ancestral links
Mike Taylor
Perth and Kinross Council

Mike Taylor, head of arts and heritage with Perth and Kinross Council, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "They are life-size heads and they are quite elaborately tattooed in the style that the Maori still use today.

"The head for the Maori is the most sacred part of the body, it embodies one's ancestral links, providing a tangible link to the ancestors and to the start of creation.

"After death the heads were very often removed and kept with families and clans as that direct link."

Mr Taylor said that the report to be considered by the council on Wednesday recommends that the heads be returned.

Glasgow City Council decided last June to return three preserved Maori heads to New Zealand.

The tattooed heads, along with a leg bone, were never put on public display and were locked away at the city's Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

A request for the return of the artefacts was made in March by New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

Maori heads will return to NZ
24 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Country profile: New Zealand
27 May 04 |  Country profiles
Maori march to defend beaches
05 May 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Kelvingrove closes to public
29 Jun 03 |  Scotland

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