The University of Birmingham recently returned a Maori tattooed head and skulls to New Zealand, which had been held in their collections for many years.
Toi moko - Maori preserved heads
- Under Maori tradition tattoos were inscribed on the faces of chiefs and warriors
- After death the head - considered sacred - was smoked and dried in the sun for preservation
- Heads were sometimes taken in tribal wars
- In the late 18th Century European collectors started to buy them as curiosities
- In 1831 the sale of toi moko was banned by the governor of New Zealand
- Trade continued illegally for almost a century
- Experts estimate there are 650 Maori remains held worldwide, mostly in European institutions
The New Zealand government has been proactive in researching Maori remains and has archives suggesting more than 400 are still held in the UK alone.
'Birmingham Maori head returned to New Zealand', BBC News, 18 October 2013
Faye Chambers, ' What to do with an ancient skull and head collection?' BBC News Online 23 November 2013