Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Liz Williams, science fiction author and druid, has written an article in The Guardian Comment is free entitled How to honour the ancient dead: The pagan debate about the treatment of ancient remains sheds light on our own beliefs as well as those of the past. It is an excellent article and well worth a read. I would like to add that Pagans for Archaeology is entirely opposed to the reburial of British human remains (although some of our membership may be undecided, that is our original founding position statement, for reasons outlined previously). Anyway, well done Liz, good article. The comments are interesting too, albeit sprinkled with the usual militant atheists dismissing all beliefs as "woo". There are some good comments from archaeologists and also a discussion about the repatriation of remains from other countries (such as Australia, New Zealand and the Americas). Native American and indigenous Australasian remains are much more recent, and often come from named individuals with living relatives. They were often collected under colonial rule, and the people who want them back generally haven't changed their culture that much, so there is cultural and genetic continuity. In the case of the much older British human remains, there is no cultural continuity between them and contemporary Pagans, and everyone in Britain (including the archaeologists) has genetic continuity from them. Therefore I think the repatriation of these remains is an entirely different issue, which should be decided by the indigenous groups concerned.