English Heritage, with the support of The National Trust announced on 6th April that the prehistoric human remains in the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury should be kept in the museum for the benefit of public access and understanding.
In June 2006, a group of Druids requested the reburial of human remains from the Avebury museum.
The remains, an important bone collection dating back to 2,000 – 3,700 BC, were among the contents of the Museum which were gifted to the nation in 1966. English Heritage, as the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, has been responsible for them since then. The National Trust owns the Museum and has curatorial responsibility on behalf of English Heritage for the management of the collection.
Dr Sebastian Payne, Chief Scientist at English Heritage, said:
‘We respect the beliefs that have led to this request, and we have taken the request seriously.
These remains are important for our understanding of the past. We found that the public overwhelmingly support the retention and display of prehistoric human remains in museums, and that there is no clear evidence for genetic, cultural or religious continuity of a kind that would justify preferential status to be given to the beliefs of the group which requested reburial.
While every case is different and must be determined on its merits, we feel that the general considerations given to this case are likely to apply to most prehistoric human remains in this country. We hope that other museums considering such requests in future will benefit from the evidence we have assembled and made accessible, saving them time and expense in reaching their decisions.’
A summary report on the case and the findings of the public consultation and the opinion poll are available at www.english-heritage.org.uk/aveburyremains.