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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Archaeologists....

Hold on! There's a high horse. There! Got it. I've mounted it now. So...archaeologists. What's the deal with them? When I was ten or thereabouts, I remember visiting the British Museum in London ( I think I was always at some place of learning!) and specifically found myself wandering around the Egyptian hall where the mummies are (still) on display. I do well remember how sickened and upset I was that these unfortunate remains of people were not allowed to rest for eternity in the manner of their beliefs.
I have not one single doubt that, if any of those ancient people, when they were alive, had been informed that one day their mortal skeletal remains would have open to the leering gaze of all and sundry, then they would have been utterly horrified. For these people, that society, perhaps more than most, valued the sanity of what to do with the body after death.
Thus, with the indignation and precociousness that comes from being a ten year old (and remember, ten year olds can do anything) I insisted that I spoke to someone in charge and soon, a nice lady appeared and I began my miniature and immature diatribe, which basically consisted of how I believed it was wrong to parade the remains of these people and how they should have been left in peace. I think she was a bit taken aback! Unfortunately, I forget her side of the argument.
Now for a child to have such strong opinions about such a subject is a little surprising in itself but that's not the reason I'm mentioning it today. No, I'm thinking of how two-faced archaeologists are. For, a short while ago, by international agreement, it was agreed not to touch the remains of the Titanic and not to bring up any artefacts from the decaying vessel itself. Why? Because its now recognised as a memorial, a graveyard if you will.
So...can someone please inform me as to the difference between digging up bodies as archaeologists do on a daily basis and, not disturbing other remains? And make it a good argument please because the phrase, 'thin ice' comes to mind. In short, why do we we display some people from the past and not others?
This is a damn fine question and any answer would tell us a great deal about the person (or society) answering it. Think about it. The remains of a Spitfire is discovered in a field...the skeletal remains still in it...we take it out, pin the skeleton together and mount it, still in its original clothes in a local museum where we pay £4 to see it. Is that permissible? Or how about if we find a hundred skeletal remains plus all their original kit of First World War soldiers huddled together in a mass grave. How about shoving all them on display? No? What about recent murder victims? We can all have a good look at those.
So what's the fundamental difference between that and what is still currently going on in museums all over the word?
Distance. That's what is going on. Distance in time and respect for the living. But until we have respect for all those who have passed away, our current level of respect for ourselves will continue to be minimal. And minimal respect will always cause trouble and problems. Talk about learning from the dead eh?

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