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ASDS Archaeologists and the 1857 Burial Act

February 03, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

In 2008 the Ministry of Justice took over the administration of the 1857 Burial Act. Since then, licences for the archaeological excavation of human remains in England and Wales have required the eventual reburial of ALL remains and screening off of ALL sites of ALL periods, no matter what their value to scientific research, public outreach and the advancement of knowledge.

In the Nov/Dec issue of British Archaeology Duncan Sayer and Mike Pitts brought this issue to public attention http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba115/index.shtml and on 14th of October 2010 they were interviewed on BBC Radio 4's science show Material World http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/material/all.

In response to this, Andrew Miller MP, chair of the select committee for science and technology, wrote to Kenneth Clarke MP, Secretary of State. In his reply, Clarke indicated that there had been no formal complaints from the heritage profession.

On 2nd February 2011, forty of the UK's leading professors of archaeology wrote to Kenneth Clarke expressing their concern about this situation. We have published the professors' letter in British Archaeology. Alongside it, we have published letters from school children describing their fascination for science and history when visiting the archaeological excavation of an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

The professors' letter, a background document, and a letter to the archaeological profession asking them to act now can all be found below. We have also included a template for a letter to Kenneth Clarke so you or your organization can let him know your concerns; the address can be found in the letter to archaeologists.

This is an important opportunity to act and we hope that you will add your voice as soon as you can.

Yours sincerely
Duncan Sayer, Mike Pitts and Mike Parker Pearson.

This is a matter currently affecting archaeology in the UK and these are the views of a number of people working in the heritage profession, not those of ASDS who have kindly agreed to host this material. A forum for open discussion by members of the ASDS may be found inside the members' area.

BA 117 Professors letter to Kenneth Clarke QC MP (pdf)


Background information on reburial (pdf)


Template letter to Clarke (Word doc)


Web Letter to the Archaeology Profession 3rd February 2011 (pdf)


Web Page: www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/material/all

Contact: Duncan Sayer

Document: ASDS-event-BA 117 Professors letter to Kenneth Clarke QC MP.pdf