The Government has returned four decorated ancestral skulls to the Ambassador of Indonesia, at an event at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Canberra.

30 May 2018

The valuable cultural artefacts were each presented in a special box crafted by expert conservators from the National Museum of Australia to ensure their safe transport and storage.

“The Australian Government is pleased to return these culturally significant decorated skulls from the Dayan and Asmat people to Indonesia, as part of our ongoing efforts to combat the international illegal trade in cultural property,” Minister Fifield said.

The traditionally-decorated skulls, two belonging to the Dayak people of Kalimantan and two belonging to the Asmat people of West Papua, were each presented in a special box crafted by expert conservators from the National Museum of Australia to ensure their safe storage and transport.

The artefacts provide a glimpse into the past where ornamental human skulls were used in traditional rituals. The Asmat people decorated skulls with seeds and carved sea shell rings, while the Dayak people decorated skulls with intricate engravings.

The ongoing efforts to prevent the illegal trade in human remains and cultural artefacts is undertaken in Australia under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

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