(File pix) A historical item on display. A Niah Cave collection, consisting of 116 human burials, kept at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for decades will be returned to Sarawak in 2019. Pix by Nadim Bokhari

KUCHING: A Niah Cave collection, consisting of 116 human burials, kept at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for decades will be returned to Sarawak in 2019.

Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed on the matter, and an agreement reached to bring the collection back to the state.

"After we signed the agreement last week, the collection was packed into 33 boxes, and will be transported by land from Nevada to Florida.

"Our archeology assistant curator Mohd Sherman Sauffi went on the road trip, which took three days until the collection arrived at the University of Florida, safely," he said.

Ipoi said the collection will only be brought back in 2019 due to limited storage areas available at the museum in the state, thus, it will be temporarily stored at the University of Florida.

"We need a special and better storage facilities to keep the collection, thus, we will have to wait for the new museum to be completed first," he told a press conference at the Sarawak Museum office here.

The remains were discovered by Tom Harrisson and his wife during excavation works at Niah between 1947 to 1967. The remains were later brought to Nevada for studies.

"They (the remains) were shipped to Nevada and to be studied by Shelaigh and Richard Brooks, who are physical anthropologists and archeologists.

After they both retired, the collection was kept in the UNLV for decades.

"We want the collection back as we are the rightful owner. We will bear all the cost in transporting the collection back to the state," he said.

The human remains are believed to date back to 40,000 to 1,000 BP.

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