The Sanctity of Burial: Pagan Views, Ancient and Modern

WALLIS, Robert and BLAIN, Jenny (2007). The Sanctity of Burial: Pagan Views, Ancient and Modern. In: Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice’, Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, 17 Nov 2006. (Submitted)

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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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: This is an edited version of the paper given by Wallis and Blain at the 'Respect' conference on 17 Nov 2006, subsequently edited for web-publication in 2007 on the conference website (url above). The concepts in this paper have been further developed by the authors in subsequent work. When citing this paper, please give the Manchester Museum url in addition to the SHURA information.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sociology, Politics and Policy Research Group
Depositing User: Jenny Blain
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2010 13:49
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 14:32

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