NZ/OZ topic - Maori skulls to return home : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

The Advertiser
April 8 2000

Maori skulls to return home
by Simone Reid

Four preserved Maori skulls and a jaw bone bestowed to the South Australian Museum will be sent back to New Zealand.

The skulls - called moko mokai - will be returned to New Zealand as the result of an ongoing repatriation campaign.

The South Australian Museum will hand over the heads at a ceremony on April 17.

Curator of Foreign Ethnology at the museum, Barry Craig, said the age of the remains was not clear.

"It really is impossible to tell how old the skulls are or the exact circumstances before they came to be here," Mr Craig said.

"The skulls were offered to the museum by a man called Mr H.J. Scott in 1890. I have no idea how he got them," Mr Craig said.

"And the jaw was provided by an Adelaide geologist named Robert Laws, who found it on the Chatham Islands, near New Zealand."

The heads will be loaned to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, where hundreds of other repatriated heads are already stored.

A Maori tradition was to preserve the heads of deceased family using a drying process, then keep the memento at home.

A collection of 35 heads is held in New York's American Museum of Natural History - the largest single collection outside new Zealand.


In view of ongoing debates on this forum regarding death and rites etc., I post this morsel of iniquity. I know of several heads that ought to roll and be mounted on a plaque as a memento. Some would be rather attractive even.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (, April 08, 2000


Pieter, You've obviously an axe to grind but confess to not reading enough of your stuff to know whereof you come. Would guess you're into repatriating heads. Are the Te Papa folk good guys or bad guys? Confess please your favorite heads on the "ought to roll" list.

-- Carlos (, April 08, 2000.

The Te Papa folks in New Zealand obvious want their heads. Indeed I take it they are in the head business, both ancient ones and the more recent variety.

In celebration of heads that have rolled returning to the place from whence they were purloined after becoming rollees by means both foul and natural, I propose a forum head gallery.

My first choice without challenge is the lady with the capital L. She'd look fetching on a grecian plinth with a bacchanalian apple plumbing her mouth and garnished with poison ivy.

My second forum mounting would feature a flighting hawk-head with eyes all akimbo, as if in a non-challant come-on. It would be more attractive with a button that an audience may press to here a string of vitriol.

On the OZ front I'd toss for either Prime Minister Howard or ex-Prime Minister Keating. Unfortunately I'd have to drape a cloth over both because I'm on an emotional budget and do draw the line.

Trust this gets your Yankee juices flowing...

Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (, April 08, 2000.

Oh yes, I forgot. to mention that all heads must have an engraved caption as memento.

For my first choice I'd have engraved: "It was my Delight - In honour of the Queen of Spam."

For my second nomination I'd engrave: "This was Hawk's Head. It was a &*^%$##@ bad day."


-- Pieter (, April 08, 2000.

OK, I'll take it all back for attempting to stir needlessly.

Instead might I improve the Lady plinth by attaching this caption:
"mens sana in cor'pore sano"

and might I tack this one to Hawk's:
"honi soit qui mal y pense"

I would offer my own head but there isn't really that much of it. Not worth mounting at all and it would quickly lessen the quality of this thread.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (, April 08, 2000.

Pieter: Collecting crania seems to have been a worldwide pastime among the erudite of the latter nineteenth century.

-- Very (, April 08, 2000.

Good stuff Pieter. Must remember to read you.

"Six" sez the barrier reef is endangered due to PNK (maybe PKN maybe KNP, etc.) Best my finding blames cyanide fishing and weather pattern changes (eg. El Nino). Your info?

-- Carlos (, April 08, 2000.

I really shouldn't have spent so much time away from the computer as there is so much to catch up with. This thread, for example, raises two issues that I feel I must comment on.

First, Te Papa is our recently opened Museum of New Zealand in Wellington. I have now visited it three times.

The first time I just couldn't believe what I saw: The building is absolutely fantastic, and the amount of effort that has gone into the architecture and the layout is almost beyond comprehension. I could certainly see why it cost so many millions of dollars to build.

However I had to make a second visit to confirm my initial impressions. I wasn't mistaken, my second visit confirmed the impression I gained on my first visit: The building is absolutely fantastic, and the amount of effort that has gone into the architecture and the layout is almost beyond comprehension. I could certainly see why it cost so many millions of dollars to build.

But wait a minute, I went there expecting to find a museum, and as a museum Te Papa is a big failure. Most of the exhibits were artificial, and inside is a building that is supposed to be a pre- european Maori meeting house. But its made from artificial wood, and painted in flourescent paint. I never realsed our natives were that advanced. Shark's jaws made from plastic, fiberglass native birds etc all go to make Te Papa a fake.

To preserve the Maori heads that are still in existance, they should be left in the various true museums around the world that still have them.

The second issue is the heads themselves. The report said A Maori tradition was to preserve the heads of deceased family using a drying process, then keep the memento at home, but the actual truth that many modern Maori are unwilling to acknowledge is that most of these moko mokai are the shruken heads of enemies slain in battle.

The heads themselves were so revered that they were exchanged for knives, axes, blankets and anything else that looked like it might be a good trade. They were sold at the marketvalue of he day. Now some activists are doing their best to get these items back, but they are not willing to buy them back at current market value.

-- Malcolm Taylor (, April 11, 2000.

I'd like my skull to be used as a bannister knob at the foot of the stairs at Westminster underground station (after I'm dead of course). It'll stop kids sliding down.

-- skull and cross bones (, April 11, 2000.

Spanish police hunt for pope's skull
Source: AFP
Published: Wednesday April 12, 4:31 AM

SABINAN, Spain, April 11 - Spanish police were today hunting for the skull of the 14th century antipope Benedict XIII - valued at more than $US300,000 ($A500,000) - after it disappeared from a palace here, a newspaper report said.

The theft was discovered by a curator at the palace of the Counts of Argillo in this town near Saragossa, the newspaper Heraldo de Aragon said.

A police spokesman would not comment when asked by AFP about the disappearance of the skull with its urn. The report said the Civil Guard had taken over the investigation into the disappearance.

Benedict XIII, born Pedro de Luna, was an Aragonese cardinal who supported the antipope Clement VII during the Great Schism (1378- 1417), succeeding him 1394. During the schism the church was split between supporters of the popes in Rome and those elected in Avignon, France, since known as 'antipopes'.

Benedict XIII refused to bring an end to the schism in 1409 by standing down in favor of the newly elected Pope Alexander V, and continued to claim to be pope until his death in 1423 at the age of 93.

His skull has been preserved here since the early 19th century.


It's catching on!!!

-- Pieter (, April 11, 2000.

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