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19 October 2008
Consultation on Avebury's human prehistoric remains

The National Trust and English Heritage have joined forces to launch a consultation on the future of prehistoric human remains excavated from their sites in Avebury, Wiltshire (England). The remains, which are currently kept in the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury, date back to BCE 2,000 3,700.
     Paul Davies, Reburial Officer for Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO), requested the burial of the remains in 2006, prompting English Heritage and The National Trust to determine the future of the bone collection. Dr Sebastian Payne, Chief Scientist at English Heritage, said: "This request raises sensitive and important issues about religious beliefs surrounding human remains, and the value of these remains in telling us about our shared past. It is likely to set a precedent for treating other similar requests. Avebury is also a World Heritage Site. We need to consult widely to decide on the best way forward"
     Organisations and members of the public are invited to comment on a draft report compiled by English Heritage and The National Trust. The report outlines findings and views on issues including the relationship between CoBDO and the cultural, spiritual and religious significance of the human remains and their scientific, educational and historic value. They are also invited to give views on particular options for reburial. Possible fates include reburial in a way which makes the remains unavailable for further examination, reburial in a way which ensures that the remains are still available for future examination and retention in the museum in a way which shows respect for druid beliefs. The deadline for the consultation is January 31 2009.
     The consultation papers and a questionnaire is available from www.english-heritage.org.uk/aveburyreburialconsultation and www.thenationaltrust.org.uk/remains

Sources: Tara Booth for 24 Hour Museum (15 October 2008), Swindon Advertiser (16 October 2008)

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