The son of a former Aitutaki airfield superintendent arrived in Rarotonga on Monday to present the National Museum with three stone adze heads that were gifted to his father over 50 years ago.
Ministry of Culture secretary Anthony Turua was on hand to receive Pete Ashton and his wife Kris, and was pleased and thankful to accept the treasures back into the community.
“They do have significance and recognition for the Cook Islands, considering what the rocks represent. We are fortunate here at the National Museum to receive these artefacts.
“We encourage our people, or people overseas, if you have some artefacts sitting at home, please bring them to the museum, so that our younger generation can see some of our history.”
The stones being gifted were given as a present to George Ashton during his time as the airport superintendent on Aitutaki from 1959 to 1964.
Ashton explained how his father, who has since deceased, accepted the stone treasures when they were presented to him but he never felt as though they belonged to him.
For 53 years they have remained in a cupboard in New Zealand.
It was his wish that they would eventually be returned to the Cook Islands.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Ashton, who grew up in Aitutaki during his families stay there.
“Those five years in Aitutaki were a fantastic part of my childhood, so we are really pleased that you guys are happy to take the adzes back.
“They probably would have come back a lot earlier, but there was a concern maybe 30 years ago that if they had been returned, they may not have gone to the right people.”
Due to being a young boy at the time his father was gifted the stone artefacts, Ashton wasn’t able to remember many of the details, such as who gave them to him or what they were carved from, but he did get the sense that they were very old.
“We don’t believe that they were carved for him at the time. We think they must have been very old even then – they could very possibly be over a thousand years old.”