February 07, 2007

British pagans demand prehistoric human remains for reburial

Let's hope that scientists and politicians around the world stand firm against this kind of muddle-headedness.

Give us back our bones, pagans tell museums
British pagan groups are increasingly asking for human remains and grave goods from pre-Christian burials to be returned to them as well. The presence of what they see as their ancestors in dusty drawers or under harsh display lights is an affront to their religion. To them, the bones are living beings, whose existence is bound up with their religious descendants and the sacred land.


Other pagans are less impressed with what science has to offer. "Any story that is reconstructed from that data will be an imagined past, which usually turns out to be a blueprint of the present imposed upon the past," said Mr Davies. The druid council is not against studying human remains per se, he said, but does object to their retention in museums. "They are not samples, they are bits of body, they are bits of people, bits of spirit."


His view is far from universal. Some in the museum community say it is unfair for scientists to impose their world view on pagans. "We think that there is actually an intellectual argument for pagan claims to be taken seriously," said Prof Bienkowski, "It is a different world view which, actually, like the scientific world view can be neither proved nor disproved. It is actually our responsibility to take those views into account." What right, he asks, do scientists have to speak for the bones either?

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