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The Sanctity of Burial: Pagan Views, Ancient and Modern

By Robert Wallis and Jenny Blain

Abstract

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: oai:shura.shu.ac.uk:2613

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Citations

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