Odds and Ends => Etcetera => Topic started by: kosowith on March 15, 2009, 01:46:23 pm

Title: Pagans
Post by: kosowith on March 15, 2009, 01:46:23 pm
I received this from one of the people I have worked on NAGPRA with and decided to pass it on as "interesting" It seems that a group of Pagans in the UK have been protesting at many of the UK musuems to take control of all of the Iron age human remains.   This is a conference they are promoting to discuss what they see as their rights to these remains.    The most difficult part of the discussion is their attempts to prove descent. I also would find it more appropriate if they protested to respect ALL human remains rather than just "ancient pagans"

Honouring the Ancient Dead: ensuring respect for ancient pagan remains

Conference - 'The Care of Ancient Human Remains'
17 October 2009
New Walk Museum, Leicester

Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) is pleased to announce it is hosting its first independent one day conference on the care of ancient human remains. Conference themes will cover the leading edge of current  thinking from prominent speakers - representing museums, social
anthropology, national human remains specialist groups, as well as the Pagan perspective that is central to HAD. Conference participants will be invited from a wide community of
archaeologists, museums, government departments responsible for human remains, together with Pagans and others with special interest in their care. Opportunity for discussion and questions has been built in to the agenda, and papers given at the conference will be published following the day.

This one-day conference aims to explore the current issues around value, custody and interest in human remains, with particular focus on how the institutions that maintain custody engage with those external communities who have a special interest in the remains. The conference
is organised by HAD, who as part of the conference will clarify its own position in developing and maintaining dialogue and facilitating access to and consultations on human remains. The speakers are invited from amongst those who have worked with or engaged with HAD. Discussion will play a key part in the conference. The results of the conference will be used within subsequent discussions relating to the respectful treatment of ancient British human remains held between HAD and institutions such as museums or government departments.

'The Matter of Bones': Human bones are curious things: both person and object, yet neither wholly one nor the other, they affect us, altering how we perceive life and death, self and others, community and relationship. From a social and cultural anthropological perspective,
this paper explores why and how bones matter to the living, and indeed what that matter - physically and emotionally - actually is. Furthermore, why and how does their significance inform what we do with them?

Consultation and Display': Best practice in museums, following the guidelines of the Museums Association Code of Ethics, is to involve audiences and communities in consultations around future displays. This paper reports on a successful consultation around the redisplay of the Iron Age gallery at Colchester Museum. 'The Issue of Custody': While museums and other institutions generally accept they have custody not ownership of remains, recent re-interpretations of the law by the Ministry of Justice have made it more difficult for archaeologists to excavate and retain human remains for more than two years. There is, however, still lack of clarity; this paper seeks a path through the minefield.

'The Pagan Voice': Though political correctness requires museums respectfully process requests from overseas communities seeking to repatriate ancestral remains, when British Pagans express significant interest in remains museums have no effective guidance as to how to respond. This paper explores the theologies that underlie the Pagan spiritual connection to human remains, and asks what language would be better employed by heritage organisations in such discussions. 'Practical Respect': What may be seen as respectful of human remains
within one culture may be felt as desecration for another. This paper explores how consultative processes can ensure that the various notions of respect are given equitable value, and integrated into the process of decision making around the excavation, retention, storage, and disposal of human remains. How can these be put into practice, who holds responsibility and who bears the cost?
Title: Re: Pagans, pagans, reburial, repatriation and NAGPRA
Post by: Defend the Sacred on March 15, 2009, 06:12:50 pm
Though I've heard of the woman who founded the group, and IIRC I have had some interaction with one of their academic advisors (and have read the work of another), I don't know enough about who else is involved and what exact methods they're using to really say much about this particular organization and conference. In Ireland and England, some who self-identify as some type of Pagan have worked quietly alongside everyone else on reburial issues, while some self-proclaimed "Druids" have used it for self-promotion and grandstanding. Though the parts of their website (http://"") I've looked over seem pretty well thought-out, I just haven't seen enough of this particular group yet to have an opinion on how their general membership (and people at "demonstrations") are handling the issue.

They do acknowledge on the website that, beyond a few basics, we don't know what exact rites would be appropriate for Iron Age ancestors. The page with the basic ceremony they want to use is blank, however, so I can't really comment on how historically accurate it might be. Though I would not really call it a "Druid" ceremony, as they do on their webpage, This reburial (http://"") seems to have been done respectfully and simply.

I'm also not sure why they need to label it a "pagan" or "Pagan" group. All remains should be dealt with respectfully, but perhaps they've formed due to the sort of policies we've seen in Ireland. Technically, all the pre-Christian ancestors can be referred to as "pagan", but that doesn't mean that only modern Neo-pagans can speak to the issue (which they do address in their FAQ, but that will only be obvious to those who read through the whole document, not the casual visitor).

In Ireland, the Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, seems to have accomplished the most in bringing awareness to the grave desecration and reburial issue. But for pre-Christian ancestors, the situation isn't as good. This is the policy of the National Museum of Ireland:
The museum will not knowingly collect or display the remains of identified individuals, nor will the museum collect or display remains in instances where less than 100 years is known to have elapsed since the time of death,

What I've found in discussing this with non-NDNs, is that a lot of them have the misconception that with NAGPRA, repatriation issues are easy in the US. I don't think they realize that it's still a struggle.

ETA: Actually, looking over the above press release again, this part disturbs me:

Though political correctness requires museums respectfully process requests from overseas

... I'm having a bit of a WTF? moment over that statement. Are they referring to Native American remains that have been taken to their country? If they're referring to dealing respectfully with NAGPRA requests as "political correctness" - that's rather insulting. Just because English (or "British") people can't agree on what to do with their ancestors' remains is no call for sniping at those behind NAGPRA for being better organized and more respected.
Title: Re: Pagans
Post by: kosowith on March 16, 2009, 10:34:58 am
This all began with the following post on the World Archaeology Congress forum.  It caused an long and ongoing discussion that included the announcement of this conference by HAD.  I wrote to HAD to see if they are only interested in ├»ron-age UK or if they are interested in extending it to include other areas, especially North American and what led up to and surrounds NAGPRA, as I know a number of people who have worked on NAGPRA who would be willing to come and speak, especially about what they are calling "cultural continuety". They have not answered yet, but the message was sent over the weekend.   So we will see. (as a ps - are you in the UK? - I will be visiting/working there at Oxford next month)

inital comments and link below

Militant Druids fight museum over a 4,000-year-old skeleton called Charlie
By Alun Rees and Jonathan Petre
A group of militant Druids has forced an expensive official inquiry after demanding that a museum releases a 4,000-year-old skeleton called 'Charlie' so they can rebury it.
They claim the bones of a young girl and seven other sets of prehistoric remains excavated near the ancient stone circle in Avebury, Wiltshire, are their 'tribal ancestors'.
If their claim is rejected, they have threatened to take a test case to the High Court under the Human Rights Act.
Title: Re: Pagans
Post by: Defend the Sacred on April 02, 2009, 10:13:28 pm
Oh dear, somehow I missed your response. I'll PM you with the details :-)

[Just testing, nothing else altered]