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A SET of ancient Aboriginal remains found during a clearout of a house in northern England are soon to be returned to Australia.
Workers stumbled across the two femurs, three skulls and an assortment of other bones while sorting through the Cheshire home of university professor John Kempster, a former Aboriginal Rights Association president, after he moved to New Zealand in 2008.

He had instructed auction house Andrew, Hilditch and Son to clear out his home and sell anything they thought valuable.

“After the removalists finished the clear-out they found a small wooden crate and jokingly said to me they were the dog’s bones in there,” auctioneer Tom Andrew said.

“I said ‘Let’s open it and see what’s inside’ and we found three skulls and one or two other pieces.

“I also found in another briefcase two femurs wrapped in newspaper.”

Not realising that Britain had an agreement with Australia to return indigenous remains, the bones and a selection of weapons given to Prof Kempster while he lived in South Australia in the early 1960s were put up for auction in November 2008.

But after about 20 minutes of frantic bidding, the remains were dramatically pulled from sale after the Australian High Commission telephoned to stop the auction.

A scientist was sent to examine the bones, which were confirmed as being of Australian indigenous origin.

They will be handed over on Thursday to two Ngarrindjeri elders who flew from South Australia to London to collect 16 individual remains held by three museums and the auction house.

Mr Andrew said he was happy to know the remains would soon be on their way to the National Museum of Australia, which will try to determine which indigenous community they came from.

“I’ll certainly be on the look out for more,” he said. “I think there are more around than we think.”

The Liverpool museum has two more sets of remains it plans to return to Australia at a later date.

Further south, the Brighton & Hove City Council has agreed to return two skulls and two femurs for further study in Australia.

However, it is still debating whether to give back a skull modified to be used as a water vessel and which has been stored at the museum since 1925.

www.news.com.au

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