Museum skeletons may get Christian burials
Ethical debate has been hotting up with the news that thousands of skeletons in the Museum of Londonís collection could be reburied.
The museum wants the bones to be given a "Christian" burial where appropriate after they have been properly studied and documented.
In an interview with The Times newspaper, museum director Jack Lohman said it was ìan ethical issueî and that the skeletons deserved a final burial.
About 17,000 skeletons are kept in boxes stacked from floor to ceiling in the museumís storerooms.
Many of those unearthed in London over the past three decades had Christian burials, judging from the artefacts found beside them or because they were dug up at monastery sites.
Hedley Swain, head of early London history and collections, said: ìThe people making decisions should ask themselves whether they would feel comfortable about their bodies being dug up one day and stuck in a cardboard box.î
Some academics oppose the idea of reburial because human remains are considered invaluable for historical, sociological and medical research.
James Steele, chairman of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, said: ìReburial may mean the loss of any future potential to analyse the material.î
The museum, which attracted 363,000 visitors last year, houses one of the worldís most important collections of Roman, medieval and post-medieval skeletons.
Once they are analysed, the museum wants most of the skeletons reburied, perhaps in the crypt of a disused church or consecrated ground.
The fate of the non-Christian skeletons will also have to be considered.