Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The Sanctity of Burial: Pagan Views, Ancient and Modern

By Robert Wallis and Jenny Blain


Archaeologists worldwide increasingly engage with calls from indigenous communities for the repatriation and reburial of ancestral remains. In this paper, we present findings from the Sacred Sites, Contested Rights/Rites\ud Project: Contemporary Pagan Engagements with the Past, now in its sixth year. Having examined the diversity of Pagan representations of the past and engagements with monuments, we turn our attention here to calls for respect and reburial with regard to prehistoric remains and associated\ud artefacts held by museums and archaeology departments in Britain. These British Pagans, Druids in particular, are claiming a say in how human remains and associated artefacts are excavated by archaeologists and\ud curated in museum and university collections. We identify Pagans as ‘new-indigenes’, in part due to their drawing on indigenous perspectives elsewhere in their discourse, and we problematise and theorise this discourse. There is no single Pagan voice on the issue. The Council of\ud British Druid Orders’ press release (leaked October 2006) calling for the immediate ‘return’ and reburial of certain pagan remains is proactive in its approach, while Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD), a British network organisation set up to ensure respect for ancient pagan human remains and\ud related artefacts, has collaborated with the Museums Association in this conference bringing professionals and Pagans into dialogue to explore the ‘philosophy and practice’ surrounding ‘respect for ancient British human\ud remains’. This dialogue, alongside instances of reburial already in action,reflects a diversity of Pagan voices as well as the ways in which heritage managers and museum professionals are reflexively addressing this issue

OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2003). British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO): Response to the DCMS Consultation Document ‘Care of Historic Human Remains’. Prepared on behalf of the Association by James Steele
  2. Church of England and English Heritage Working Group on Human Remains 2005. Guidance for Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated from Christian Burial Grounds in England. Available online:
  3. (1997). Excavation and Restoration of the Doll Tor
  4. (2005). Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums.
  5. Historic Scotland 1997/2003. The Treatment of Human Remains in Archaeology.
  6. (2003). Historic Scotland Operational Policy Paper 5. Amended
  7. (2004). No One Voice: Ancestors, Pagan Identity and the ‘Reburial Issue’ in Britain.
  8. (2003). of Culture, Media and Sport doi
  9. (2006). Pasts and Pagan Practices: Moving beyond Stonehenge. doi
  10. (2006). Persons, Things and Archaeology: Contrasting World-views of Minds, Bodies and Death.
  11. (2003). Respect and Reburial in Action.
  12. (1997). Respect and Reburial. The Druid’s Voice:
  13. (1998). Speaking for the Ancestors: The Reburial Issue in Britain and Ireland. The Druid’s Voice:
  14. (1996). The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.