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Planet Earth

Ancient Bones & An Old Burial Law

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOctober 11, 2010 4:16 PM

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Given that there are no indigenous peoples in the UK, (the kind that exist in Australia and the U.S.), this is a bit strange:

Severe restrictions on scientists' freedom to study bones and skulls from ancient graves are putting archaeological research in Britain at risk, according to experts. The growing dispute relates to controversial legislation introduced by the Ministry of Justice in 2008, which decreed that all human remains found during digs in Britain must be reburied within two years.

As this special section of stories in the current issue of Science shows, disputes over ancient graves has riven American archaeology over the past two decades. But at least we know these disputes stem from legitimate grievances. In the British case, it appears that nobody is contesting archaeological excavations of ancient remains. Rather, it's an antiquated 19th century law that is messing with modern-day archaeology in Britain.

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