Brotherly skulduggery

September 5, 1997

At St Andrew's University, helping dig up old bones is all in a day's work. For last weekend's return of an Aboriginal chief's skull to his tribe in West Australia, the Home Office enlisted the help of Martin Bates, a lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology in London. He helped exhume the dried head of Yagan, a warrior whose skull had been held by Liverpool Museum until the 1960s before being buried in a local cemetery together with a Peruvian mummy and Maori head. Subsequent burials around and above the museum remains complicated the exhumation, so Bates enlisted the help of his brother Richard, a St Andrews University expert in geophysics.

Richard used electromagnetic and ground penetrating radar surveying equipment to locate the box containing the skull, allowing the archaeologists to dig down the side of the grave and then tunnel horizontally without damaging the remains or other burials.

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