Scientists are hoping to establish the authenticity of a tribal arrow said to have been made from part of Captain James Cook's leg bone. Cook, who charted much of the east coast of Australia and claimed the continent for Britain in 1770, was eaten by cannibals in Hawaii in 1779. Legend has it that his thigh bone was used as the shaft for an arrow. The 13cm-long arrow was displayed at exhibitions in London in the mid-19th century and then given to the Australian Museum in Sydney, where it has rested in a drawer ever since. Two notes, one from the 1820s, accompanied it, saying it was from Hawaii and fashioned from Cook's leg bone. DNA will be taken from the arrow and matched against that of one of Cook's descendants in Australia. Dr Don Colgan, from the museum's evolutionary biology unit, said: 'There's a legend that the arrow contains skeletal material from Captain James Cook. It's pretty macabre to be honest. 'What we would have to do is drill a small hole in the shaft, which is about 7mm wide. It would have to be done extremely carefully, possibly by a surgeon. It would then take up to a year to extract the DNA and compare its genetic code with one of Cook's descendants.' Over the past year the museum has tried to establish exactly where the arrow came from by sending it to anthropologists all over the world. At Burke Museum in Seattle, anthropologists said the arrow, which has a barbed, iron head, was very similar to those made by native American tribes in the Pacific northwest of the continent. More recently, an X-ray of the arrow's shaft has suggested it may be made out of a bone from a sea mammal, such as a seal or whale. 'It would have been a strange way to use a big bone like a femur, because the arrow is quite small,' Dr Colgan said. 'It would have taken a lot of whittling down.' There are about 70 direct descendants of Cook in Australia, and more in England. Heidi de Wald, a spokesperson for the Australian Museum, said if the DNA extraction showed the arrow did come from the British explorer's leg, it would attract huge interest. 'It's already among the top five most famous pieces the museum possesses. If it really was Cook, we'd probably have to put it on display,' she said.