Are archaeologists respecting the dead even with ethical and moral codes guiding their standard practices?
How should archaeologists and researchers respectfully treat the dead?
‘Things can legitimately be used as means to human ends in a way in which ‘persons’ cannot’ (ibid: 6).
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Beinkowski (2006: 8) sees it essential to dig deeper in the various attitudes we hold towards mind, body and consciousness because ‘the relationship between Body and Mind lies at the core of different world-views’ (ibid: 2).
There are four worldviews: (1) Dualism: French philosopher Rene Descartes explicate that human beings have two separate substances, Mind and Body.
We see that respect is a matter of relativity in this case.
There is not one correct answer as both cases are valid.
‘Although idealism is largely ignored by contemporary western philosophy and science it is a world-view found in many eastern religious traditions’; and (4) Animism: Mind and Matter always go together and that everything is simply part of Nature (ibid: 2-4).
Indigenous cultures and Pagan groups fall in this category (Alberti et al 2009; Bain and Wallis 2006).
In this essay, I will attempt to summarise the broad theoretical discourse on the moral standing of the dead and the displaying of human remains in museums.
I will first address the different worldviews that affects how various groups interpret the dead, identifying two opposing sides of the argument: Dualistic and Materialistic scientific community and Animistic indigenous communities and Pagan groups.
In my reflection of the topic, I shall discuss two other issues concerning the dead: the photograph and circulation of their images online and in the media and the relationship of displaying of human remains, which are victims of recent genocide, to tourism. In 1998, the Museum of London held the exhibition , showcasing a large collection of more than eighteen thousand human skeletal remains from the Museum’s archaeology division (Swain 2002: 98).
The purpose was to prove how Londoners have changed appearance through time with evidence from the archaeological record (ibid).
Different interpretations of ‘respect’ for the dead are apparent throughout these two opposing ideologies.