Suspected dumped kōiwi highlights museum best practice

In mid-June, a box containing bones was dumped on the doorstep of Russell Museum. Unsure if the bones were human or even where they had come from, museum and local iwi expressed disappointment and concern about possible kōiwi tangata (human remains) being disturbed. If you suspect that bones may be kōiwi tangata they should only be disturbed or removed with the involvement of tangata whenua, police and Pou Heretaunga Heritage New Zealand.

The remains found at Russell Museum have since been identified as not being human and are likely to belong to a sea mammal. This event however is an important reminder to museums to check their archaeological and natural history collections for kōiwi tangata, as human and animal bones can easily be misidentified.

For more information on past bone identification workshops and best practice, see here.

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