Bowls, Bobbins and Bones: Resolving the human remains crisis in British archaeology, a response

Sayer, Duncan orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2769-1281 (2011) Bowls, Bobbins and Bones: Resolving the human remains crisis in British archaeology, a response. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 21 . pp. 10-14. ISSN 2041-9015

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In 2010 and 2011 a series of articles appeared in British Archaeology describing a crisis surrounding the archaeological investigation of human remains. Behind these articles was a campaign to change the licensing conditions issued by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the excavation of human remains. The campaign was covered in local, national and international media and resulted in questions in parliament and letters from select committees addressed to the MoJ. It was chiefly orchestrated by three archaeologists, Mike Parker Pearson, Mike Pitts and Duncan Sayer, but hundreds of others offered their support and time, and many individuals and organisations wrote directly to the minister to explain their dissatisfaction with the situation as it existed. The political, professional and media pressure, alongside the advice of several individuals in a closed meeting organised by the MoJ, resulted in a 'more flexible' interpretation of the licensing conditions from 2011 and a rewriting of the application procedure for permission to excavate.

In 'Resolving the Human Remains Crisis in British Archaeology' Mike Parker Pearson, Tim Schadla-Hall and Gabe Moshenska explain the background and the major events of the 2010-11 campaign and consider the situation within the context of two subtle but perceivable juxtapositions – law vs. practice and science vs. religion.

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