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    I note that archaeologists discovered the remains of one of Napoleon’s generals.


    I wonder why digging up a person with a name seems so much more grisly than uncovering pits of nameless victims of the 1812 debacle?

    Germany recently returned the remains of several Indigenous Australians that were formerly on exhibit in museums.


    I don’t suppose they’ll be propping up Gudin’s bones behind a glass case somewhere in D├╝sseldorf but I wonder what the rules are, if any exist, for the scholarly treatment of human remains?




    Excavation and display of human remains is a much debated subject that touches on religion, ethics, and personal and cultural sensitivities. There’s a huge amount of scholarly literature about it, but if you want to know what sort of rules govern us in England, the following will give you a sense of the official guidance:




    Howard Williams’ Archaeodeath blog is well worth a read for reflections on the excavation and display of human remains. I seem to recall that Alison Atkins wrote a good article reflecting on it too, but cannot remember where it was published. I’ll come back to that if my failing brain wakes up enough to remember.

    It’s a very complicated topic because people have so many different relationships to the dead, from seeing the remains as the detritus that is left after that which made them a person has gone, to considering the remains to embody the person, thus requiring specific and special treatment of those remains. If we know what a person’s religion and beliefs were, we can treat them appropriately. I recall a road expansion in England that was going to go over an old Jewish cemetery. The authorities would not permit the cemetery to be excavated so the road had to be constructed above it with specific requirements on the minimum headroom between the grave and the road. That works when we know the beliefs, but how should we treat the remains of a Bronze Age person when we don’t even know what they believed? There’s a tendency in England for the Church of England to take over in these cases, and that causes quite a few debates too. Other countries and cultures have their own rules, but I cannot comment on them. I’m sure others on here will be able to though.

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.


    In this case they will probably bring him back to France.

    The archeologist leading the project said he would be put in Les Invalides tomb in Paris (with Napoleon and other famous generals) with all honours. He certainly knows what he’s talking about: other researches by his team (about Russian soldiers killed in France in WW1 and Free French pilots killed in Russia in WW2) have been followed by ceremonies so it will probably be the same and with media /propaganda coverage.



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