Remains of mummified Tainui child to return home after 100 years

May 2015

More than 100 hundred years after being taken from its burial cave, the mummified remains of a high ranking child belonging to the Tainui iwi is returning home from Austria, Te Papa announced today.

“We are extremely thankful to the Weltmuseum Wien (World Museum Vienna) and the Austrian Government for their approval to return these tūpuna. Their genuine commitment to the repatriation of indigenous remains allows our country to resolve a very dark period in our history,” Te Papa’s Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says.

The mummified remains of the child were taken by the collector Andreas Reischek who was well-known for his activities to acquire both Māori remains and taonga (treasured artefacts) from wāhi tapu (hidden sacred repositories) in the late 1800s.

A small delegation from Te Papa travelled to the Weltmuseum Wien in Austria to formally receive the remains of the child, and three other sets of remains, including:

  • Nine human vertebrae with a piece of flax weaving, collected by Andreas Reischek from Te Taitokerau/Northland

  • A coffin with skeletal remains from three different individuals, collected by Andreas Reischek from Te Taitokerau/Northland

  • A toi moko (mummified, tattooed Māori skull) collected by Johann Georg Schwarz.

The repatriation is the result of a formal request from Te Papa to the Weltmuseum Wien and Austrian Government in 2013.

The tūpuna (ancestors) will be formally welcomed home at a pōwhiri at Te Papa at 9am on Monday 25 May. They will then undergo a period of quarantine, conservation and research before being returned to their whānau.

“The connection to the tūpuna is continuous, despite time and location. I am grateful for the legacy offered by the late Māori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu, who in 1985 brought an important ancestor home from Austria, as it has helped to pave the way for this repatriation,” Chairman of Te Papa’s Repatriation Advisory Panel, Professor Pou Temara says.

Media contact

Professor Pou Temara
027 435 2186

Rachael Bruce, Senior Communications Adviser
029 601 0010

Notes to editors

Guidelines for media reporting at repatriation ceremonies

Repatriation ceremonies are known as a form of Tangihanga (or funeral) and are deeply moving cultural experiences. The following guidelines will assist media in covering these events to avoid causing offence or stress for cultural participants:

  • Media are welcome to make audio/visual recordings at the pōwhiri but must register their attendance prior

  • During the pōwhiri, media are not permitted to cross the centre of Te Marae before participants as this may cause an unintended cultural offence. To avoid this occurrence, media are asked to remain in their allocated position until directed otherwise

  • Leaders from Te Papa’s Repatriation Programme will be available for media interviews at the conclusion of the pōwhiri.

Vienna repatriation Q-A May 2015 (180.25 KB)