Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – The University of Cambridge has announced work to return 4 spears believed to have been taken from Australia by British explorer James Cook in 1770 to the Aboriginal community of La Pérouse, according to the university.
These spears are believed to be among the oldest surviving artifacts ever taken from Australia by any European.
The spears were originally part of a group of 40 that Cook took from Camai, also known as Botanical Bay, according to a press release from Trinity College, University of Cambridge.
The statement noted that Cook’s records show he took spears from Aboriginal people living in eastern Australia without their consent.
After Cook’s return to England, Lord Sandwich presented four of the Spears to Trinity College, according to the statement.
The spears have been in the care of the Cambridge Museum of Archeology and Anthropology since 1914.
In the statement, La Perouse Indigenous Land Council Chair Noelene Tempere called the spears “very important,” adding that they are “an important connection to our past, our traditions, our cultural practices, and our ancestors.”
“For many years, our elders transferred their property to traditional owners in Botany Bay,” Tempere explained. “Many of the families within the La Perouse Aboriginal community are descended from those who were present during the eight days that the Endeavor docked at Camai. 1770″.
CNN indicated that Cook traveled to Australia and New Zealand on board the ship, “HMS Endeavor”, and this represents the first known European contact with eastern Australia.
The British colonization of Australia led to the emergence of foreign diseases, displacement, and massacres against the indigenous population.
The La Perros Indigenous Land Council and the Gujaga Foundation submitted a formal request for the return of the spears in December, after years of campaigning, according to the statement.
It is hoped that the spears will be transported to Australia in the coming months, according to the statement.
The community is currently building a new visitor center to house the artifacts, and they will be stored at the Australian National Museum in Canberra for the time being.
Shane Williams, an elder of the Darawal people, a broader group that includes the Goygal people from whom spears were originally taken, emphasized the importance of spears in terms of cultural education, and thanked the educational institution for the interest in the “priceless” artifacts of more than 200 years old.
“These spears have incalculable value as the strong tangible connections between our ancestors and ourselves,” Williams said in the statement. “I want to honor Trinity College in returning these spears to our community.”
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