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After more than 30 years of political tractations, French authorities have finally returned 20 Maori warrior heads to their homland New Zealand, to be given proper burial as per Maori traditions.
The Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Rouen (Rouen’s Natural History Museum) had been keeping one of these heads in its collections for more than 150 years.
But before returningsome precautions had to be taken before sending the head back. During the 19th century colonial conquest period, Maori heads were an attraction and Europe and highly sought after. Incredible and morbid as it can be, fake Maori heads of non-Maori and/or European people (tattooed post-mortem) made their apparition on the market to satisfy the strong demand in Europe.
So to ensure that the head returned to New Zealand actually belonged to actual Maori warriors, the Muséum turned to 3D scanning. By using a Handyscan 3D VIUscan, they scanned the head so to get its actual measurements, and they compared them against real Maori anthropomorphic data, which made it possible to guarantee the heads were actual Maori warriors’ heads, and not fake ones.
*Sorry the video’s in French only, but the images are quite cool.