Is it necessary to display human remains?

There are more than 130 museums in the United Kingdom that hold large quantities of human remains. The Natural History Museum in London alone contains more than 20,000 remains (Brooks and Rumsey, 2007). In 1998, the London Museum hosted an exhibition called London Bodies, which featured a large collection of more than 18,000 human skeletal remains from the museum’s archeology department (Swain, 2002, p. 98). The purpose was to use archaeological records to show how the appearance of London’s population changed over time (ibid., P. 98). Likewise, in 2007, due to its popularity, the Manchester Museum hosted the exhibition Lindow Man: A Bog Body Mystery for the third time (Alberti et al. 2009).

There are a number of ethical and moral questions that researchers and museum staff must answer in their daily encounters with the dead. These questions relate to the ethical duties of archaeologists, how the dead should be “mistaken” and how museums should preserve, handle, and display human remains.

How do we respect the dead?

There are two valid views here: some of the societies that are believed to have come from arguments about their repatriation and burial rather than being in show cases in institutions. On the other hand, archaeologists argue that it is important to analyze human remains, but with a certain degree of “respect” based on their moral code. We see respect in this case as a matter of relativity.

Beinkowski (2006) argues that it is essential for archaeologists to address the different attitudes we have towards mind, body, and consciousness. This is because of the importance of the relationship between these in terms of the fundamental role it plays in understanding the worldview of current culture and its attitude towards the dead. There are four basic worldviews, the first being dualism (Beinkowski, 2006). French philosopher René Descartes explained that humans have two separate substances, mind and body. This viewpoint played a major role in the Enlightenment, and from the seventeenth century influenced the development of science and directed the disciplines of archeology and museology. The second is materialism, where only the body or matter exists. This allegedly caused philosophy and the sciences to become increasingly materialistic, a trend that continues to this day. The third is idealism. There is only a mind or a soul, everything else is an illusion. This worldview is largely ignored by contemporary Western philosophy and science. Finally, spirituality: Mind and matter always belong to one another and everything is simply part of nature (Beinkowski, 2006). The cultures of indigenous peoples and pagan groups fall into this category (Alberti et al. 2009; Bain and Wallis 2006). The pagans described Ben Wallis (2006, p. 4) as a “new indigenous people” because of their shared vision of the world with indigenous peoples, p. 4).

The character and its imperfection

The idea of ​​the character and its imperfection are very important, too. The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that personality exists with consciousness and the ability to make decisions (quoted in Beinkowski, 2006). This brings with it rationality, dignity, respect and rights (ibid.). In a dualistic and materialistic worldview, the dead are separated from the living, with the result that human remains are considered “objects.” “Things can legitimately be used as a means to human ends in a way that“ persons ”cannot use them (Beinkowski, 2006, p. 6). For Kant, since things have no autonomy, they are things more than objects (ibid.). The reason is that archeology, as a paradigmatic dual / materialist practice, treats bodies as “objects” for their own purposes. Museums to a large extent ”(Bienkowski, 2006, p. 7). At the other end of the extreme, spirituality shows no contrast between mind and body. But they are one, in harmony and harmony. “Feeling or consciousness is everywhere: In nature, within connected individuals and even human cells, we communicate with one another … We call this“ the integral body ”(ibid. 2006, p. 6). As a result, death cannot control the body. Unconsciously, the dead are still integrated into society and are still seen as people (Bienkowski, 2006, p.7) whose presence can be felt in the landscape and in the environment.