Teachers at a New Zealand school received a macabre surprise when they realised a supposedly plastic skeleton to be used in anatomy lessons was actually a real set of human bones, a report said Thursday.
Totara North School principal Bastienne Kruger had removed the skeleton from storage and was about to use it in class when on close examination she saw that the teaching aid was not plastic as she had assumed.
Kruger said no one knew how long the skeleton had been at the school, which opened in 1852, the Northern Advocate newspaper reported.
"When we realised it was real, we wanted to do right by this poor person, but we didn't know how, so we phoned the hospital and they suggested we bring it to the police," she told the newspaper.
Police approached the Historic Places Trust, a heritage agency whose regional manager Stuart Park concluded that the remains, a skull and bones from one side of the body, belonged to a slightly-built adult male.
He said the bones did not appear to have been dug up and their polished appearance meant they were most likely to have been professionally prepared for medical purposes in the 19th or early 20th century.
Park added that the jaw shape showed the skeleton did not belong to a Maori and it probably came from India or China, where the trade in human remains once thrived.
Kruger said the school had not decided what to do with the remains, which were being stored at the local police station.