thinking about archaeology

Archive for February, 2011

Why reburial is not a Pagan issue (this time)

Photo Magdalen Hill Archaeological Research Project (see note at the end of this post)

Discussion continues. Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly MP wrote to the Guardian to say our concerns are “wide of the mark”: “In any case where retention [of human remains excavated for archaeological purposes] is justified, especially those involving important discoveries, human remains would never have to be reburied.”

It is very good to see the ministry “has come to the conclusion that the existing legislation can be applied more flexibly”, and we welcome discussion. But what is this about (more…)


Update on excavating human remains

Debate about this issue has increased since my last post, and there is now a page of information and downloads on the Association for the Study of Death and Society website. As I have explained, archaeologists are asking the Ministry of Justice to cease attaching a condition to licences granted for the archaeological excavation of human remains, that stipulates that these remains should be reburied after study. The image above is the letter we sent to Ken Clarke, as it appears in the new British Archaeology magazine (within a larger feature), in the shops on Friday.

Other things worth looking at include: (more…)


Why do archaeologists worry about human remains?

Archaeologists about to dig up human remains at Stonehenge

We launched our campaign this week to persuade the Ministry of Justice to take a sensible approach to administering the law regarding the archaeological excavation of human remains in England and Wales. Essentially this means dropping the need to rebury all such remains (within a standard two years, or after a limited extension on this period if granted on request) – a requirement introduced in 2008 – and also the need to screen from view excavations where human remains are present.

The most important part of this initiative was writing on Wednesday (February 2) to the Right Honourable Kenneth Clarke QC MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for (more…)


When front covers go wrong

Heart-warming and intriguing news coming out of Egypt, but I sympathise with a fellow editor who must be thinking, why now? I’m sure it seemed a good idea at the time, but when around 414,850 members of the CSMA Club received their magazine over the past few days, editor Jeremy Whittle can only have wished it didn’t have “the wonders of the world’s oldest destinations” on the cover – Egypt.

As tourists try to flee the country, one of many interesting things is the way Egypt’s heritage seems to be faring. There is damage reported in the Cairo museum holding Tutankhamun’s treasures, but it, the New Library of Alexandria, Luxor Museum and other locations seem to have been protected by a spontaneous alliance of citizens, police and military. There are many instances of this kind where in the most fraught situations, people have shown how much they really value their heritage – so at odds with a cultural attitude in Britain that too often puts heritage in a side-room with cheap souvenirs, unskilled labour, light entertainment and soft politics.

I don’t have any special inside information on events in Egypt, but there are several things on the web worth following, including  Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log, Margaret Maitland’s Eloquent Peasant and Egyptology News.

I happen to be writing about unusual archaeological places to visit for a travel magazine this week. No pyramids there anyway, at least not in Egypt.

British Archaeology has just gone to press, so there are a few days for something to go disastrously wrong with our cover. But fingers crossed we shouldn’t be affected by protests and revolutions – and the cover’s one of our best. Not to mention the contents…