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30 August 2007 @ 03:16 pm
A Hard Question...  
At what point does grave-desecration turn into archeology?

At this point in our history, we can learn things about people only a couple hundred years gone. When does exhuming people for information sake become educational enough to justify it? If we can learn things about people a couple of hundred years gone, does that mean ancient indian burial grounds should be dug up, too? What about your great great grandparents? Does someone who has been dead 10,000 years still have rights? Does the community they were from?
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughty
Robyn Goodfellow: lily-robynrobyngoodfellow on August 30th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC)
I think that's a very good question, as well as a very controversial thing. I suspect the answer varies wildly not only on a personal level, but on a cultrural one.

For instance, some cultures don't have 'graves' per-se. Like people who put their dead in trees, or cultures where people eat their dead.

But then there's cultures where people believe that only being buried intact allows them to progress to the afterlife, like Ancient Egyptians or devout, old-school Catholics.

But there are so many things that can only be learned from how our ancestors treated their dead. Like how Bronze-Age Egyptians managed to build the pyramids... or, for example, today I had a sandwich made with Ancient Grain bread. I call it Zombie Bread, because it rose from the tomb. We have 'new' varieties of grains, because they survived being buried in tombs for centuries and has been re-germinated and is giving people new strains to work with.

I think the only way to properly deal with the situation is with respect and honesty. Yes, people are being exhumed, but it need to be remembered that these were people once. Their loved ones treated their remains with respect, and we should too. Learn what you can, and return them to their peaceful rest (or some semblance thereof) once you're through.

As far as I know, only the archeologists engaged in assholery have had death-curses fall on them. I personally plan to be cremated... and depending on my mood, I might have some sort of curse on my urn. Heh. But there's not much that can currently be learned from a properly cremated corpse.
Robyn Goodfellow: apathyrobyngoodfellow on August 30th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the jump in tense half-way through. I'm writing this at work, and had to stop half-way through the thought to help a customer.
Fritters: Ed Stars by Frittersfritters on August 30th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
Hey, sorry for the Devil's Advocate response. I'm just exploring the idea. So we're even ^_^
Robyn Goodfellow: candlerobyngoodfellow on August 31st, 2007 03:48 am (UTC)
No worries. It's a good idea to play DA in this situation. It's a good way to weed out hypocracy.
Fritters: TT Raven Ehhhrrr by ellonwyefritters on August 30th, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
So if the remains were treated were respect and eventually returned in a few years, would you let them dig up your great great grandfather?
Robyn Goodfellow: indeedrobyngoodfellow on August 31st, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think I'd be okay with that. But as far as I know, most of my great grands were devout Catholics, who believe their body needs to be intact for them to be reborn when Revelation comes... So I'd want them to be treated respectfully to honour their beliefs.
lironesslironess on August 31st, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)
I have not been involved for a long long time but I think there is some kind of protocol that they follow.

I know that there was a big controversy when some grave robbers dug up some Renaissance graves of nobles to steal the jewelry. A costume designer asked to take photos and measurements of the clothes that were left, the bodies were completely gone. They let her do it and she published a book but it's kind of icky and kind of interesting at the same time. They then reburied everything. In the book the had photos of the particular people in paintings, then photos of the remains of the same clothes that were worn in the painting.
Frittersfritters on August 31st, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
That is sorta weird, yeah. Grave robbing and archeology are two different things, but the idea is sorta similar, they're just taking different things, eh?
Violet Tigress: drowningviolet_tigress1 on August 31st, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)
When you're a scientist or an archeologist.
Robyn Goodfellow: fishgaterobyngoodfellow on August 31st, 2007 03:43 am (UTC)
Not always. People have done some pretty nasty things in the name of science, and some archeologists are little better than glorified grave-robbers.
Violet Tigressviolet_tigress1 on August 31st, 2007 04:27 am (UTC)
Yes. I'm sure some are, and they do horrible things. They still call it science, even though it's nasty. People have done horrible things in the name of religion, too.
postrophe on August 31st, 2007 06:58 am (UTC)
(Aghast:) "Oh god, Croft!?! She's not a scientist, she's a Tomb Raider!"

I think they should ask... and deliver results to the descendants first.
Frittersfritters on August 31st, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
How hard should they look for descendants? How far out can the descendants be? I mean, there are some tribes where there probably aren't any real descendants, per se, but they still don't want 3000 year old burial grounds dug up. Should they be able to say no?
postrophe on September 1st, 2007 06:56 am (UTC)
There we get into who owns the land, and who owned it before, and who wants to vouch for old bones. There are some tribes that pay attention to Any time bones are dug up, even in other nations, and lobby for respecting remains.
I notice there's a different outlook on this in Europe, where in some locales they've been casually tossing out human remains for centuries - and that's prolly how the mortuary perk 'perpetual care' got invented: pay us to bury your loved ones and the bones'll never get disturbed...
Frittersfritters on August 31st, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
Let's keep this on topic please...
Violet Tigress: butterflyviolet_tigress1 on August 31st, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Just saying that science doesn't have a monopoly on slimy people, is all.
Frittersfritters on August 31st, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying archaeologists are slimy. I'm saying this is a grey area and I'd like people's opinions on it.
Frittersfritters on August 31st, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
So if there's a scientist studying the 1930s you'd let them dig up your great grandmother?
catlyn99catlyn99 on August 31st, 2007 12:20 pm (UTC)
I think the particular religion/culture should be taken into account as well.
Some cultures believe that the body is just a carrier of sorts for the soul. When you die, the soul continues on into the afterlife, its next life, or something else. The body is left as an empty shell so to speak, and no longer has any meaning to the one that passed on. The body could very well have meaning to the loved ones still alive though.
Then there are other cultures, such as egyptians, that believe that if you are not buried correctly you are lost in the afterlife. For those, I do not believe we should desecrate their resting place. However, as has been stated, there are many grave robbers out there. Perhaps we should instead try to use science to learn about these individuals and attempt to correct the desecration. Not only would this act still allow our scientists to learn more about them but it would give peace to dead.
I myself do not find it an abhorrent thought that science may one day wish to dig my remains up. But then I'm an odd duck with some wacky beliefs. =) Just my two cents worth, take it or leave it.
catlyn99catlyn99 on August 31st, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)
Apologies to anyone attempting to read that large chunk of text. It was meant to be 3 paragraphs and I forgot to either indent or put in seperating lines so sorry for any headaches it caused. *sheepish*
Fritters: Krahe by Rudi Hurzlmeier (icon by Frittefritters on August 31st, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
So then you think that we shouldn't have done any archeology on the remains in pyramids?
catlyn99catlyn99 on September 2nd, 2007 05:56 am (UTC)
I believe we shouldnt have distrubed any burial chambers that havent already been disturbed. I do think though, that if a chamber HAD been disturbed, we should study the contents in an attempt to restore it as much as possible. This in turn would give us alot of information. The pyramids have been the target of many grave robbers over many centuries. There would be plenty to learn without further disturbing the sites.
Direwraithedirewraithe on August 31st, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
As a former NPS archaeologist I can tell you that no RECOGNIZED burial site would ever be excavated without the express consent of the culture or family involved. Burial sites are routinely re-interned and re-consecrated because this was not always the case but thankfully more respect and thought is given to these matters than once was. This applies primarily to the US however and many archaeologist travel to other lands specifically because they aren't as... strict. Sad but true.

Fritters: Ed Happy BIG by Frittersfritters on August 31st, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
That's really nice to hear. The whole reason I asked is because this IS such a grey area. Science and knowledge are important, but so are family/community wishes.
postrophe on September 1st, 2007 06:39 am (UTC)
Um, I thot you knew that... I'm always hearing about construction getting halted cause they dig up some native bones and have to find some tribals to take custody/resanctify/authorize continuing work; whatever gets decided...
claymorex on September 2nd, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
At what point does grave-desecration turn into archeology?

To boil it down to something really basic, I think that the difference between grave robbing and archeology is intent. Archeology is about learning something about the people and the society and grave robbing is about digging stuff up to sell it to make money.

I believe that when you are dead, you are dead. If someone wanted to dig up my great grandparents to learn more about the early 20th century, I'd be down with that as long as it was done respectfully.

Frittersfritters on September 2nd, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
That's cool. Everyone seems to draw a different line.