National Human Remains Guidelines in England
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National Human Remains Guidelines in England and the Educational use of Archaeological Human Remains. Simon Mays English Heritage. The Guidelines DCMS EH\C-of-E BABAO.

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Simon Mays English Heritage

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National Human Remains Guidelines in Englandand the Educational use of Archaeological Human Remains

Simon Mays

English Heritage


The Guidelines DCMS EH\C-of-E BABAO


Educational value of human remains is often not emphasised in guidelines on archaeological human remains

  • Ethical debates in England & elsewhere mainly framed in terms of research versus reburial

  • EH / CofE policy of use of partially or fully redundant churches to store remains


Do we need to use real bones for university teaching?

  • DCMS, EH\C-of-E & BABAO guidelines say yes!

  • Models / casts:

  • Do not adequately reproduce anatomical detail

  • Do not reproduce archaeological reality

  • Do not encompass range of natural and pathological variability


Should we use real bones for handling sessions at public events?

  • Why would we need to?

  • DCMS guideline: emphasises risks involved

  • EH/C-of-E guideline: models / casts may be preferable

  • Some organisations do use real bones & report no problems


Different criteria affect research and teaching value of a collection


Ethical issues in the use of human remains for teaching

  • Knowledge-based ethics: the preservation of the information content of a collection

    Actions: obligate behaviours that ensure the integrity of a collection

  • Respect for human remains:

    What does respect mean in practical terms?

    Actions: Only use remains for their intended purpose; refrain from actions that are not consistent with this


Destructive sampling of human remains in student projects: how can it be justified?

  • Imperative of preservation of collections vs imperative toward gaining new knowledge from them

  • Likelihood of useful knowledge being generated that could not be gained in another way

  • Educational value to the student


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