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4 February 2007
Druids call for burial of ancient remains

Modern-day druids are demanding the re-burial of a child's skeleton displayed in the stone circle museum in Avebury (Wiltshire, England). The Council of British Druids backed up their request with a small ceremony at the Alexander Keiller Museum.
     The child's skeleton was discovered during excavations at the North Ditch at Windmill Hill in 1929. Dubbed Charlie or Charlotte, is one of the most popular exhibits in the museum. Now the Order of Druids, the group that celebrates mother earth and holds solstice ceremonies at Avebury, wants the skeleton reinterred. Mr Davies, reburials officer for the Council of British Druids, is in talks with English Heritage and the National Trust. "There are guidelines for the reburial of Christian remains. We want equivalent rights for our dead," he said.
     Experts say it is likely that many skeletons, skulls and other human remains in British museums will have to be considered for reburial. In Australia the Aboriginals and in the USA the Native Americans have successfully fought for the return of ancestral remains. Now the National Trust and other museum authorities in the UK could face a similar barrage of requests.
     David Thackray, head of archaeology at the National Trust, and Sebastian Payne, chief scientist at English Heritage, issued a joint statement. It said: "Human remains have a unique status within museum collections and should always be treated with respect. We have had a very constructive meeting with representatives of the Council of British Druid Orders, and we will be assessing their Avebury request very carefully, following the process set out in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport guidance." They said the decision would affect museums nationwide.
     Leading Avebury archaeologist Mike Pitts said he was sympathetic to the request from the druids. He said: "The issue of how we handle and display human remains in museums is of great importance." Paul Davis from the Council of British Druids said he was sure their request would be successful.

Sources: Gazette & Herald, The Bath Chronicle (1 February 2007)

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