Ministry of Justice statement on the exhumation of human remains for archaeological purposes

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have recently issued a statement on the exhumation of human remains for archaeological purposes. This follows an apparent change in interpretation of the 1857 Burial Act in 2008, requiring the eventual reburial of all human remains, of all periods, no matter what their value to scientific research and the advancement of archaeological knowledge.

A new set of guidance notes is promised by this latest statement, which will hopefully clarify the situation. Also encouraging is the MoJ’s conclusion that a more flexible approach to the interpretation of the Act is required, allowing “licences to be granted with a wider range of disposal options for exhumed remains than re-burial alone, including the retention of remains indefinitely”.

The statement can be found here:

www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/guidance/burials-and-coroners/statement-exhumation-human-remains-archaeological.pdf

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