German museum agrees to return mummified Maori heads

BERLIN (AP) — A German museum said Wednesday that it will return two mummified, tattooed Maori heads that were part of its collection for more than a century.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation said the repatriation to New Zealand of the two heads, known as Toi moko, would take place “as soon as possible.”

The tattooed heads of high-ranking Maori tribespeople, mostly men, were ritually preserved by relatives after their death. During the 19th century Europeans obtained and traded Toi moko, ostensibly for scientific purposes but mostly as specimens for display in museums.

The Te Papa national museum in Wellington has for years worked to bring Toi moko back to New Zealand.

“I’m glad that with the return we can begin to heal the injustice that was committed, even though we won’t be able to undo it,” said Herman Parzinger, the chairman of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The heads have been part of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin since 1879 and 1905.

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