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Human Remains Advice

Human burials from archaeological sites are an important source of information about our past.  Their excavation, study and archiving also raises distinct ethical and legal issues (for example, see our joint response with the National Trust to a request for reburial of human remains from prehistoric Avebury, Wiltshire). We provide specialist advice on all aspects of human remains from archaeological sites in England.

As well as providing advice on a case by case basis, we have also produced published guidelines. We were also involved in crafting Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

You can contact our Science Advisors for direct advice or contact Simon Mays for advice on human osteoarchaeology.

On 1 April 2015 the part of English Heritage represented on this website changed its name to Historic England. You may notice that some of our content still refers to English Heritage. We are in the process of rebranding, but in the meantime please be assured that all our content and guidance is still current.

Human Bones from Archaeological Sites

Human Bones from Archaeological Sites

Published 30 January 2004

A guideline for best practice for producing human osteological assessments and analytical reports. It is written primarily for practising osteologists taking part in archaeological fieldwork projects.

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Guidance for Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated From Christian Burial Grounds in England

Guidance for Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated From Christian Burial Grounds in England

Published 24 January 2005

Guideline on ethical, archaeological, scientific and legal considerations associated with excavation, study and archiving of human remains and associated artifacts and grave-markers from Christian burial sites in England. Published in collaboration with the Church of England.

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Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (APABE)

The Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (APABE) provides advice on any aspect of English archaeological burials. The objective is to nurture a consistent approach to ethical, legal, scientific, archaeological and other matters concerning the treatment of archaeological human remains.

APABE membership has broad experience of dealing with human remains in a variety of different professional settings and circumstances. It may give advice on specific matters and also advise on general issues of principle or policy. This is a free service supported by Historic England, The Church of England and the Ministry of Justice.

APABE has published Science and the Dead: A Guideline for the Destructive Sampling of Archaeological Human Remains for Scientific Analysis. This aims to provide a framework to help organisations responsible for the care of archaeological human remains respond to requests from researchers for removal of bone or tooth samples for the purposes of scientific analysis. The guideline describes some of the legal, ethical and scientific considerations involved.

In 2015 APABE published Large Burial Grounds: Guidance on Sampling in Archaeological Fieldwork Projects. It is a guideline aimed at professionals involved in fieldwork projects that impact upon archaeological burials numbering in the thousands.

Contact

Simon Mays

Human Skeletal Biologist

Investigation & Analysis

Fort Cumberland,
Fort Cumberland Road,
Portsmouth,
Hampshire,
P04 9LD

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