London’s Natural History Museum has agreed to return the bones of 17 Tasmanian aborigines, much to the chagrin of scientists who claim the remains are hugely important for research.
The bones were collected in the 19th century and we’re only just getting round to returning them thanks to a recent change in the law. Kind of eases the guilt we’re feeling at still holding on to next-door’s power tool, which we borrowed a couple of months ago.
The repatriation is particularly gauling for science, as the Tasmanian people were isolated for hundreds of years and therefore hold potential clues into human evolution. When returned to the Tazzie’s, the remains are expected to be cremated. NHM scientists have therefore been frantically scanning and fiddling with the bones to extract as much data as possible.
The musuem’s Chris Stringer, who’s having a busy week, said:
I regret the future loss of scientific data from these specimens. If the Tasmanian people in the future want to investigate their own past, they will no longer be available.
The NHM holds remains of some 20,000 long-dead humans – roughly equivalent, at least numerically, to the population of Llandudno, North Wales. The Tasmanian deal could set an important precedent, with many other samples being returned to decendants. No news yet on whether the dinosaur remains will be shared out amongst the crocs and the birds.