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8 August 2009
Calls for remains to be returned to Stonehenge

A druid protester is calling for remains taken from the Stonehenge World Heritage site to be returned - and has collected thousands of signatures on a petition backing his call. King Arthur Pendragon says to take the ancient remains permanently away from, what was intended to be, their final resting place would be undignified and should not be allowed. He said: "There is no dignity left if they can just take them away and not care they were living, talking human beings at one stage."
     The remains were removed from the site last year for tests to be carried out as part of The Stonehenge Riverside Archaeological Project. The project, supported by National Geographic under the leadership of Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, led to new insights into the possible uses of the site. Radiocarbon dating of human cremation burials at the ancient monument suggested it was used as a cemetery from its inception just after 3000 BCE until well after the large stones went up around 2500 BCE.
     Many archaeologists previously believed people had been buried at Stonehenge only before the large Sarsen stones were raised and the new dates provide strong clues about the original purpose of the monument. But the Druids say they will not rest until the remains have been once again laid to rest. A spokesman for English Heritage, which manages the site, said permission to excavate is only granted when the applicant can show the benefits in the increased knowledge are likely to outweigh the damage done by the work and that excavation of human remains is regulated under the Burial Act.
     The spokesman said: "Human burials and human remains are an important part of the record of our shared past. English Heritage believes they should always be treated with respect, and that decisions about excavation, study, display and reburial should be based on the balance of benefit and harm, giving due weight to the views and interests of all those involved."

Source: Salisbury Journal (6 August 2009)

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