The remains have been part of Lund University’s collections since 1876 but have now been returned to their homeland, following a decision by the government and a thorough investigation to establish their identity, among other things.

“We are grateful to return the human remains that we have had in our collections and to be able to do it in this dignified way”, says Lund University’s Vice-Chancellor Per Eriksson.

“The repatriation of these remains means a great deal to all New Zealanders“, says the New Zealand Ambassador, H.E. Barbara Bridge. “At last our fellow country men and women can be reunited with their families and find a final resting place. On behalf of the New Zealand government, I sincerely thank Lund University and the government of Sweden for making this possible.“

The remains that were handed over today will be sent to the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. The national museum has been entrusted by the government of New Zealand with the task of running an extensive programme to repatriate remains of Maori and Moriori that are in institutions overseas. On two previous occasions in 2009, the Swedish government decided to authorise the return of human remains to the museum.

It was in Febraury 2009 that Lund University received an inquiry from the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, concerning the possible repatriation of the human remains of Maori that were present in the University’s collections. In connection with an inventory of human remains carried out in 2005 by the former Department of Anatomy, the University had identified three individuals originating from New Zealand. After a thorough review of the University’s archives, it was possible to establish that the remains had arrived in a consignment together with a letter in 1876 to the Department of Anatomy. The sender was identified as the Canterbury Museum, London.

When the remains are restored to New Zealand, the museum will continue to study them in cooperation with the tribes. The aim is for the remains to find a final resting place in the location where they were originally buried.

The Maori remains were kept at the Department of Anatomy until 1995 when they were transferred to the Historical Museum in connection with the closure of the department. From that time until the present, they have been kept in the University’s warehouse in Gastelyckan. Lund University’s Historical Museum contains human remains from at least 1400 individuals. Most of them arrived at the University through collections in connection with urban reconstruction projects and are anonymous individuals from the Middle Ages. A lesser number have come into the University’s possession through earlier legislation which meant that deceased persons that were not claimed by anyone were automatically given over to research. A further number, as in this case, came to the University through exchange or purchase; the collections contain individuals from 24 countries.

In 2008 Lund University released the remains of two Aborigines to the Australian state and in 2005 the University decided to hand over the remains of a Russian Jewish man to the Jewish congregation in Malmö.

Programme officer, Anne Messeter, Lund University, e-mail: anne.messeter@intsek.lu.se, phone: +46 (0)46-2223755