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UK to return four Aboriginal spears looted in 1770 to Australia

Sydney, Australia, Mar 2 (EFE).- The University of Cambridge will return four aboriginal spears brought to the United Kingdom when Captain James Cook and his crew first came into contact with an indigenous community in Sydney upon arrival in Australia in 1770, official sources reported Thursday.

These artifacts are the only remaining legacy of the 40 spears Cook and his British soldiers looted in April 1770 from camps of the Gweagal people of the Kamai community. It encompasses what is now known as the Botany Bay suburb in the southeast of Sydney, according to a statement from the National Museum of Australia.

These four spears were gifted in 1771 by Lord Sandwich to Cambridge University’s Trinity College shortly after the arrival in England of Cook and the crew who accompanied him aboard the ship Endeavour, the source added.

The artifacts, which will be delivered by a specified date in the coming months after repatriation formalities are resolved, have significant value to Aboriginal people and are essential to understanding Australia’s modern history.

“They are the first objects collected by a European anywhere in Australia that are preserved and documented,” Nicholas Thomas, Cambridge Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, said.

In addition, “they reflect the beginnings of a history of misunderstandings and conflicts, so their return to the country will greatly reinforce their importance,” the British expert added.

The four spears have been temporarily exhibited at the National Museum in Canberra in 2015 and 2020 as part of two exhibitions on Aboriginal encounters with settlers, and since then the institution has worked to return Aboriginal heritage to its traditional owners.

“These spears are of immeasurable value as powerful and tangible connections between our ancestors and ourselves,” scholar Shayne Williams, an Aboriginal ancient, said in the statement, highlighting the fruits of lengthy negotiations to return indigenous heritage to his people. EFE


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