History experts demand removal of human skull from auction

The skull and a thigh bone are due to go under the hammer in Montrose next month.

Lucinda Cameron
Wednesday 27 April 2022 14:05
The human remains are listed for sale at an auction in Montrose (Julien Behal/PA)
The human remains are listed for sale at an auction in Montrose (Julien Behal/PA)

History experts have called for a human skull and thigh bone to be removed from an auction next month, branding the sale of the items “unethical”.

The ex-medical items are listed in the Militaria, Domestic & Rural Bygones sale at Taylor’s Auction Rooms in Montrose, Angus on May 5.

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland said it is “wrong to commodify people as objects” and has asked Taylor’s to remove the items from the sale, but said the auction house has refused.

Valued at £20 to £40, the skull is listed as “Human skull, ex medical display complete with springs and hooks” while the human thigh bone, valued in the same range, is also described as “ex-medical display”.

Antiquarians are also objecting to the sale of a composite model of a human hip bone, an ex-medical display, valued at £20 to £40.

Dr Simon Gilmour, director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, told the PA news agency: “It is not illegal in Scotland to buy or sell human remains that fall outwith the Human Tissue Act or the laws regarding sepulchre (burial), but we believe it is unethical.

“We support BABAO (British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology) in their statement on the issue. It is illegal to traffic living people, why would this change when someone dies?

“All human remains should be treated with dignity and respect, whether reburied or dealt with as per their personal wishes.”

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland urged people to “Contact Taylor’s Auction Rooms and object to the sale of the human remains (lots 1508, 1510 and 1511)”

They tweeted: “We recently learned that human remains are set to be sold at an Angus auction house on 5 May 2022.

“The Society contacted Taylor’s Auction Rooms of Montrose to request their removal from the auction, but they refused. The sale is currently going ahead.

“We stand with the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (@BABAO_info), who believe that the sale of human remains is unethical.

“We strongly agree that it is wrong to commodify people as objects.”

In a statement on the issue of the sale of human remains, BABAO has said it is “ethically objectionable to commodify the remains of people as objects”.

Taylor’s Auction Rooms has been contacted for comment.

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