I'm a PhD student researching the role of mortuary archaeology in contemporary British society. Think of this as a scrapbook of all the interesting links, snippets of information and random bits and bobs I come across pertaining to death, dying and the dead. Enjoy?!


What to do with an ancient skull and head collection?
Mummified heads, tattooed skulls and relics of sacrifices are among the collection of about 60 ancient body parts that the University of Birmingham no longer wants in its stores. But what do you do with an ancient skull and head collection of potentially culturally sensitive artefacts?
After returning a Maori tattooed head and skulls to New Zealand, university staff revealed the institute is facing the problem of what to do with other ancient remains identified in the medical school stores.
Dr June Jones, religious and cultural diversity expert at the university, said the remains reflect European exploration and the former British Empire.

(Source: BBC News)

What to do with an ancient skull and head collection?

Mummified heads, tattooed skulls and relics of sacrifices are among the collection of about 60 ancient body parts that the University of Birmingham no longer wants in its stores. But what do you do with an ancient skull and head collection of potentially culturally sensitive artefacts?

After returning a Maori tattooed head and skulls to New Zealand, university staff revealed the institute is facing the problem of what to do with other ancient remains identified in the medical school stores.

Dr June Jones, religious and cultural diversity expert at the university, said the remains reflect European exploration and the former British Empire.

(Source: BBC News)


Museums Confront the Skeletons in Their Closets
BERLIN — Rows of gaptoothed human skulls and formaldehyde-soaked brains stock the Museum of Medical History here, where the popular exhibition “Beneath the Skin” can be so grim that visitors will occasionally swoon to the cold stone floor.
For more than a century, the museum has exhibited assorted limbs, bones, tubercular lungs and fetuses, all in the name of science and enlightenment. Yet lately the curators are re-evaluating the principles that govern their displays as they confront a growing debate over what cultural organizations should be doing to preserve the dignity of the dead.
Many of the world’s grand museums are hearing increasing demands for the return of human remains from former colonies or conquered peoples. Some are giving back bones and skulls that were once viewed as exotic trinkets and were traded by native peoples for calico or plundered in the late 1800s by scientists exploring racial differences.

(Source: The New York Times)

Museums Confront the Skeletons in Their Closets

BERLIN — Rows of gaptoothed human skulls and formaldehyde-soaked brains stock the Museum of Medical History here, where the popular exhibition “Beneath the Skin” can be so grim that visitors will occasionally swoon to the cold stone floor.

For more than a century, the museum has exhibited assorted limbs, bones, tubercular lungs and fetuses, all in the name of science and enlightenment. Yet lately the curators are re-evaluating the principles that govern their displays as they confront a growing debate over what cultural organizations should be doing to preserve the dignity of the dead.

Many of the world’s grand museums are hearing increasing demands for the return of human remains from former colonies or conquered peoples. Some are giving back bones and skulls that were once viewed as exotic trinkets and were traded by native peoples for calico or plundered in the late 1800s by scientists exploring racial differences.

(Source: The New York Times)


Body of ‘Ugliest Woman in the World’ returns to her birthplace in Mexico for burial more than 150 years after her death
A woman branded the ‘ugliest woman in the world’ after a rare disease left her body covered in hair has finally returned to her birthplace in Mexico for a proper burial - 153 years after her death.
Julia Pastrana was exploited as part of a traveling exhibition through Europe until she died from complications of childbirth in 1860. Even after her death, her body was exhibited across the world.
It eventually ended up in a storage room at an Oslo research institute, and after learning of the body’s whereabouts, visual artist Laura Anderson Barbata campaigned to have it returned to Mexico.
'I felt she deserved the right to regain her dignity and her place in history, and in the world's memory,' Barbata, who learned Pastrana's story while working on a play about her life, told the New York Times.
'I hoped to help change her position as a victim to one where she can be seen in her entirety and complexity.'
Barbata, who lives in New York but hails from Mexico City, eventually won her decade-long battle and on Tuesday, Pastrana’s body will finally be buried in Sinaloa de Leyva.
Pastrana was born in Mexico in 1834 and suffered from congenital terminal hypertrichosis, which left her face and body covered in thick hair.
She also suffered from gingival hyperplasia, which made her lips and gums thick. She was not diagnosed with either condition in her lifetime.
In 1854, she was bought by a Mexican customs administrator and he began exhibiting her through the U.S. and Canada. While in New York, she married Theodore Lent, who became her manager.
Historians believe that while she was in love with Lent, he only married her to control her earnings, the New York Times reported.

Read more here.

Body of ‘Ugliest Woman in the World’ returns to her birthplace in Mexico for burial more than 150 years after her death

A woman branded the ‘ugliest woman in the world’ after a rare disease left her body covered in hair has finally returned to her birthplace in Mexico for a proper burial - 153 years after her death.

Julia Pastrana was exploited as part of a traveling exhibition through Europe until she died from complications of childbirth in 1860. Even after her death, her body was exhibited across the world.

It eventually ended up in a storage room at an Oslo research institute, and after learning of the body’s whereabouts, visual artist Laura Anderson Barbata campaigned to have it returned to Mexico.

'I felt she deserved the right to regain her dignity and her place in history, and in the world's memory,' Barbata, who learned Pastrana's story while working on a play about her life, told the New York Times.

'I hoped to help change her position as a victim to one where she can be seen in her entirety and complexity.'

Barbata, who lives in New York but hails from Mexico City, eventually won her decade-long battle and on Tuesday, Pastrana’s body will finally be buried in Sinaloa de Leyva.

Pastrana was born in Mexico in 1834 and suffered from congenital terminal hypertrichosis, which left her face and body covered in thick hair.

She also suffered from gingival hyperplasia, which made her lips and gums thick. She was not diagnosed with either condition in her lifetime.

In 1854, she was bought by a Mexican customs administrator and he began exhibiting her through the U.S. and Canada. While in New York, she married Theodore Lent, who became her manager.

Historians believe that while she was in love with Lent, he only married her to control her earnings, the New York Times reported.

Read more here.


Protecting Peru’s ancient past
The return to Peru of the bones of  177 people taken a century ago from the Inca city of Machu Picchu has marked  another important milestone in the repatriation of Peruvian antiquities.
The country is the birthplace of many ancient civilisations.
The most famous, the Incas, ruled the area for centuries until the arrival of  the Spanish colonisers in the 1500s.
Every year, more than a million visitors marvel at the site which has become  synonymous with Inca culture: the ancient city of Machu Picchu.
Perched high on a mountain top in the Andes, it is Peru’s most important  tourist destination.
But the almost 50,000 pieces found there between 1911 and 1915 had not been  seen in Peru until recently. 

Protecting Peru’s ancient past

The return to Peru of the bones of 177 people taken a century ago from the Inca city of Machu Picchu has marked another important milestone in the repatriation of Peruvian antiquities.

The country is the birthplace of many ancient civilisations.

The most famous, the Incas, ruled the area for centuries until the arrival of the Spanish colonisers in the 1500s.

Every year, more than a million visitors marvel at the site which has become synonymous with Inca culture: the ancient city of Machu Picchu.

Perched high on a mountain top in the Andes, it is Peru’s most important tourist destination.

But the almost 50,000 pieces found there between 1911 and 1915 had not been seen in Peru until recently.