Monday, 7 February 2011

Write to your MP

Please write to your MP and to Kenneth Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice to complain about the 2008 reburial legislation. Here is a sample letter - please add your own thoughts:

I am writing in support of the letter from forty professors of archaeology regarding the 2008 reburial legislation in The Guardian on 4 February 2011.

I am a member of an organisation called Pagans for Archaeology. We're Pagans who love archaeology and believe that it has contributed hugely to our knowledge of our ancestors and the religions of the past. Without archaeology, people would have little or no understanding of the peoples of the past. Pagans for Archaeology has more members than any other group purporting to represent Pagans on the issue of human remains (we currently have 3855 members).

We are opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains, and want them to be preserved so that the memory of the ancestors can be perpetuated and rescued from oblivion, and the remains can be studied scientifically for the benefit of everyone. We want human remains to be treated with respect, but respect does not automatically mean reburial. Respect should mean memory, which involves recovering the stories of past people. The British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology has a code of practice for handling and storing human remains, which is very respectful.

I would support a return to the simple, well-tried system practised up to 2008 which permitted the retention, study, curation and display of excavated remains as appropriate.

Yours sincerely
[Your name]
Member of Pagans for Archaeology

You can find contact details for your MP and Kenneth Clarke at (don't paste an identical copy of my sample letter into Write To Them, as they block identical emails).

ASDS Archaeologists and the 1857 Burial Act
This website provides a background document, a letter to archaeologists and a template and instructions that can be used to send a letter to Ken Clarke. Please send your support for the campaign against the two-year reburial legislation to the government. Please also cc or forward your email to as ASDS are attempting to document the whole thing.

Dem bones not gonna walk around

An article in The Guardian on Friday reports that 40 archaeology professors have written to Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, to complain about the new reburial legislation which requires human remains to be reburied after two years:

Human remains from Stonehenge and other ancient settlements will be reburied and lost to science under legislation that threatens to cripple research into the history of humans in Britain, a group of leading archaeologists says today.

In a letter addressed to the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, and printed in the Guardian today, 40 archaeology professors write of their "deep and widespread concern" about the issue.

The dispute centres on legislation introduced by the Ministry of Justice in 2008 which requires all human remains excavated at digs in England and Wales to be reburied within two years, regardless of their age. The decision, which amounts to a reinterpretation of law previously administered by the Home Office, means scientists have too little time to study bones and other human remains of national and cultural significance, the academics say.

"Your current requirement that all archaeologically excavated human remains should be reburied, whether after a standard period of two years or a further special extension, is contrary to fundamental principles of archaeological and scientific research and of museum practice," they write. Signatories include Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London; Stephen Shennan, director of University College London's archaeology institute; and Helena Hamerow, head of archaeology at Oxford University.

Read more: Legislation forces archaeologists to rebury finds

Guardian (UK), Friday 4 February 2011

Ian Sample, science correspondent
(what a great name for a science journalist!)

Hat-tip to Caroline Tully