Austria returns remains of S.African indigenous people

April 17, 2012

Austria will return to South Africa the remains of two indigenous people dug up and brought to Europe over a century ago for racial research, the authorities of both countries have announced.

The remains of Klaas and Trooi Pienaar, members of the San of South Africa, were illegally removed from their grave in 1909 shortly after their death by a team led by Austrian and ethnographer Rudolf Poech, despite protests by the local population.

They were to be part of his research at the Austrian Academy of Science.

Following lengthy negotiations, the remains will be flown back to South Africa this week to be buried, a joint statement by the embassy, the Austrian foreign ministry and the Academy of Science said.

On Tuesday, a South African delegation was in Vienna to attend a traditional cleansing ritual before an official restitution ceremony at the embassy on Thursday.

The remains are to be buried in the Northern Cape province.

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