August 11th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Skeleton mystery in New Zealand school

It could be the plot for the pilot of "CSI: New Zealand."

That half-skeleton they've been using for years as a teaching aid isn't a model, it's the real thing.

Principal Bastienne Kruger at Totara North School was about to use the skeleton during a presentation recently when she realized it wasn't plastic but real human bones, the Northern Advocate in New Zealand reports.

"When we realized it was real we wanted to do right by this poor person, but we didn't know how," the paper quoted Kruger as saying. She called the local hospital, which advised her to hand the remains, including a skull and complete ribs, hands and feet for one half of a body, over to the authorities.

Police called on the expertise of the Historic Places Trust, which bills itself as the guardian of "Aotearoa New Zealand’s national heritage." Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, and the school reportedly had concerns the skeleton could be of an indigenous Maori.

That was not the case, trust manager Stuart Park told the paper. The jaw lacked Maori characteristics and the way the bones were cleaned suggested professional work, he said, meaning they likely were part of a trade in medical specimen skeletons from India and China that existed in 19th and early 20th centuries.

"It is clearly a half skeleton for medical purposes," Park is quoted as saying.

Kruger told the paper that the school, which opened in 1852, didn't know how long it had the bones.

And for now, the bones will stay out of lesson plans and in the custody of police.

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Filed under: Education • New Zealand
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. raven

    Thanks sista. It just goads me when people use a tragedy to push an agenda. Life is hard. For ALL of us. Right now its probably nearly unbearable for those left behind. I think he coulda saved his (ahem)opinion for another forum when emotions arent so raw. K, Im done venting now.whew!!

    August 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ajd041

    I agree with johhn How long did it take them to relaize it wasn't plastic?

    August 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      there's no reason to think that plastic was the only alternative material. Resins have been used for a long time in the molding process and a skeleton made from resin bones could look, feel and have the weight of real bone.

      August 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fernace

    How creepy! Wonder if the ghost of this poor "specimen" is wandering school halls at night!? If he/she is from the late 18-early 1900, chances are that the skeleton was from a plundered grave! Let's hope not due to a "burking" though, that would just be too grotesque! I hope it is from a dedicated teacher who knew how low funds were & donated his/her earthly remains in the name of education! Guv'nah Goodhair could take a lesson in humility & dedication from such a person (as the teacher Mack described)! Hope we get a follow up on this story! Btw, raven, I read 2 posts of that mar-troll who is obviously a very inconsiderate & selfcentered person! The posts I read were so inappropriate on a blog honoring soldiers who died in service to this nation! Feel your anger & frustration, girl, glad you could blow off steam!!

    August 12, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ken

    Lets' see the school has been open well over 100 years, and just now notice it's real?? Hardly think so, someone got ahold of one how ever long ago and it's been used as a teaching aid long before why is it such a big deal now?? Because some dipweed must have thought skeletons were always made out of plastic...or they aren't very smart...either way real ones have been used as teaching aids for long before these yo'yo's "major discovery" that it was a real one... geez Louise...

    August 12, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Agree; much ado about nothing.

      August 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • John R

      Looks like they need to amend their lesson plan...

      "This is a PLAAAAAS-TIC skeleton.....and here is a REEEEEEEEEE-AL skeleton...."

      August 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      why the assumption that the only alternative material would be plastic? Bone molds have been made from resin which, depending on the type, can look, feel and have weight very much like bone.

      August 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ralph

    sudenly i dont feeel to bad abut the americana edumaction system

    August 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tomas

    In my high school way back when (70's) we had a real Indian or Paki hanging by a head hook. No one ever disrespected it and it was a fabulous educational tool. Can't imagine what today's lawyers would make of that and "How it tramatized my kid." Perhaps we could sell "head hooked" lawyers?

    August 15, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • celmira9

      hanging it was enough disrespect f yi

      August 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. saint argylos

    how can you say that the skeleton is real or plastic?!,..hmmmmmmmm, decisions decisions decisions

    August 16, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lynn1234

    Oh please, I smell an "Onion"

    August 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JP

    I smell something fishy with this story also. Heck, on the reality show "Storage Wars" someone found a nice wooden presentation case with human hands, skull etc in it and some of the bones were linked with strings to keep them in order. Apparently it was a medical teaching aid, using real human bones. The funny thing is that a foot, if I remember correctly, was worth about $50, less than I would have thought. Apparently they aren't all that rare. That seems to stand in stark contrast with the reaction of this school in this story.

    August 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Laura

    I grew up in a small town in Arkansas and graduated in 2007. My highschool had a real skeleton in the biology department. I never thought it was weird, but it was handy for learning anatomy. I just assumed the person had donated their body to science.

    August 31, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • EFGRHG

      I agree. This "poor person" continues to do a lot of good into the future.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • ahab

      Don't assume the person donated their body to science. There used to be issues, where people were murdered so their bodies could be sold to science or even just stolen from the graveyard.

      September 8, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. sar

    There are SO many questions I have about this article. I agree with others- How on EARTH did a teacher just realize now that they were real bones? In my high school anatomy class we had a real skeleton, and the teacher KNEW it was real, and that the person who was "hanging" there had donated their entire body to science- which is why we had their skeleton for teaching purposes. This just seems to be ignorance to me on the school and instructors part.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Power of CNN

    This just in: The method of ascension from one teacher to the next has been discovered.
    When we come back, we will show you how to make candles from hemp.
    Over to you Ollie

    September 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tim W.

    Give the bones back to the school and the school should keep useing them for studies, the ghost is most likely very proud that they are being used for such a great purpose. I would be so happy to give my bones/body/whatever to a school where people learn something instead of being tossed in some dirt hole and forgotten !

    September 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
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