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Two years ago a question arose as to the reburial of ancient remains, specifically the small skeleton of ‘Charlie’ exhibited in a glass case in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury. A petition was launched by CoBDO (Council of British Druid Orders) to have the bones reburied and a response by the government to a similar reburial of bones at Stonehenge can be seen below. 

There is no clear agreement in the Pagan community as to whether prehistoric bones should be reburied with a ceremony, but the question of reburial of human bones  excavated by archaeologists sparked a much wider controversy about respect for the ancient dead. 

HAD (Honouring the Ancient Dead) set down their thoughts on the subject, and came to the conclusion that though there was no overall mandate for the reburial of ‘Charlie’ the DCMS guidance on the subject of reburial was only really applicable to indigenous remains from abroad that should be returned to their rightful culture. A summary of their conclusions and recommendations is quoted below…

1) HAD fully supports the appropriateness of CoBDO making its Request for reburial of these ancient human remains on religious and spiritual grounds, fully acknowledging CoBDO’s position as a valid Pagan perspective based upon genuine, experiential, spiritual connection and the profound duty of care which such a deep connection evokes.

2) HAD fully supports CoBDO making this Request, because the DCMS Guidance and heritage organisations should take into account spiritual (and not only scientific) interests in their decision-making. From that point of view, the DCMS Guidance should include practical guidelines and criteria for how this could be achieved. 

 3) However, because CoBDO is not fully representative of the Druid or Pagan community, and indeed has no valid right to claim authority over these remains, HAD cannot support its call for reburial. Further, HAD’s more broadly reaching representation of Paganism informs that there is not a unanimous call for reburial of iconic remains such as Charlie.

4) HAD queries the language of the DCMS Guidance, proposing that the language of ‘claims’ is inappropriate and has put CoBDO in a no-win situation. If a British organisation such as CoBDO had been given the option to use the language of ‘expressions of interest’, the relevance and value of their input would have been immediately heard, supported, understood and of value. It is essential that an inclusive language be offered that is more appropriate for the British situation.

5) Emphatically then, HAD asserts that use of the current DCMS Guidance is inapplicable for human remains of British provenance.

An earlier article by Heritage Action on the CoBDO petition

The government’s response to a similar Stonehenge petition


February 2010

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