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Repatriation of Human Remains

Repatriation of Human RemainsHuman remains displayed in museums around the world have passed thought an ascending request for reburial in the last 30 years. The controversy disputes the fact that some tribes or communities believe it to be disrespectful for the dead and their descendants to have their remains stored or displayed in a museum. It is mainly Native Americans and Indigenous Australians that have made these requests. Their communities believe that by bringing them back from the ground to the museum display is disrespectful.

Especially the Neo druidic religion, developed between 18th and 20th century practice veneration of their ancestors. The living members of the families have the responsibilities to care for their ancient dead buried in the proximity of their current living location. A well known case is the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury. In 2006, Paul Davies requested the reburial of human remains of the Neolithic materials found. The National Trust did not grant permission for reburial, but it allow the Neo druid priests to perform a ritual in the museum. The archaeological community criticised the actions of the Neo druids. It believes the material found is an important piece of evidence that stands the test of time, and is important for the research and understanding of past inhabitants of our planet.

The dispute started on the ownership of these body fragments found in museums or different institutions. The main difference is considered to be between the white and indigenous remains. Apparently, in a past divided by social differences, most scientific research was conducted over the indigenous remains. The archaeological society is now trying to correct this behaviour. One example is the Thorton case, when a large group of massacred Indian remains were returned to their tribe, in an attempt to heal the pain inflicted on people from a community and start an emotional healing process.