"It makes the heart to tremble when you open an undiscovered tomb." - Zahi Hawass
When discussing the issue of the removal/ displaying of human remains gathered from archaeological digs -- particularly as it pertains to ancient Egypt -- a couple important distinctions have to be made. First, there is a world of difference between modern, scientific archaeology and what occurred circa 1900 (and between archaeology in general and grave robbing). Second, there is an enormous wealth of information that we have gained and that we would not currently possess were it not for opening Egyptian tombs and analyzing the preserved corpses that they left behind. From what they ate, to how they lived, to the diseases that killed them, we have learned a tremendous amount from analyzing human remains.
Bearing this in mind, I would say it is not offensive to display the human remains returned to museums from these types of expeditions. Mummies are extremely interesting and consistently draw huge crowds, who are then able to learn about an important aspect about our shared human culture. Remains spark interest, plain and simple. This interest translates into a passion for the subject, and helps the public become more involved with the past. This is a very good thing indeed, by my estimation.
Finally, the culture of ancient Egypt is long gone, and there is, in my view, no justifiable way for anyone alive today to be upset over the displaying of these remains. King Tut died two millennia ago. Enough time has passed to where we can now appreciate and admire what he left behind.
In museums all around the world there is much controversy about whether or nothuman remains should be put on display and some argue they should not be taken out oftheir original location. During our in class discussion, a point that was frequently broughtup was about mummies being taken from their tombs, which were supposed to be a safeand peaceful resting place. I’m conflicted when it comes to the subject of removingAncient Egyptians from their tombs because it is disheartening, but it is also extremelyfascinating. I think extracting deceased Egyptians from their graves is inconsiderate totheir beliefs about the afterlife and it disrespects all of the work they did in their previouslife. However, I also think that a mummy provides an abundance of information aboutEgyptian culture and our society is able to learn about the science behind the creation ofmummies. I believe that mummies will further our knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians,so I do agree that scientists should inspected them in order to gain more information.However, I don’t think any human remains should be put on display for the world to seebecause it seems impolite to treat them as any other artwork in a museum. These were once people that lived in this world and they should be treated in an honorable manner. Inconclusion, I believe human remains should be examined for scientific purposes, but thenthey should be restored to their original location out of respect.
I believe that human remains should be able to be presented in museums. Human remains that go on exhibition are thousands of years old, and have no certain ancestors alive today. There are no personal connections, so nobody is directly affected by displaying the remains on display. Some argue that it is unfair to various cultural groups whose ancient ancestors are on display. Legally, it is difficult to understand who actually owns the remains. I would argue that it is not in the jurisdiction of the cultural group, but instead the museum and scientist have the final say in the handing of the remains. However, I believe that the groups should have some say in the matter. The presentation of the ancient begins is informative to the public, and is interesting. I agree with those who suggest museums to Museums use ancient remains for both presentation and information for the public. There is no doubt that Egyptian mummies bring in a great deal of people into a museum; these mummies are intriguing to the public and there is an attraction to seeing the mysterious bodies. The amount of effort the Egyptians put into their tombs and mummies is very different than today’s traditional funeral. The gold and jewels are mesmerizing, and the ancient writing has an appeal to it. Most people are not sensitive to the displaying of dead bodies, although activists against museums attempt to say otherwise. Mummies have, and will always, be popular among people, that will not change, so mummies shouldn’t be taken out off display. The Egyptian Mummies also offer a chance for scientific research. As science advances, scientists are able to use new technology to discover more about the Egyptians. New discoveries encourage more research on the bodies. Scientists have been able to get “a better idea of average height and life span” (Death is Forever?), which would not have been possible if people had protested the use of mummies by museums/scientists. Without the use of mummies for research, not as much information would have been gathered. Mummies allow us to learn more about the past, giving us a better idea of what life used to look like thousands of years ago.
I believe that we should not compromise our humanity for the sake of exhibition or profit.Icompletely disagree with the idea of presenting human remains in museums, because not only isit disrespectful to the deceased, but also there are so many other ways that we can learn abouthistory and art without having to display an actual human.I really like the idea that themuseums in England are implementing where they put warning signs up before museum-goersenter the exhibit, because often times people do not think deeply enough about what is actuallythere - a person, a human life - and instead just pass it by with only a quick glance.I remembergoing to see a King Tut exhibit at a Museum in La Brea, and while I thought it was really cool atthe time, thinking back on it after reading these articles, I realize how ignorant I was.WhileTiffany Jenkins’ article claims that the public wasn’t demanding that those measures be taken bymuseum staff, I think that also shows just how ignorant they are, because they we as a culturehave become so jaded to the idea of Egypt and ancient human remains that we often forget theywere people too.And while this topic is very convoluted, and there’s no real answer that seemsto emerge, I still think that there are other ways people can go about learning ancient historywithout disrespecting the dead, even if they were from so long ago.
The use of corpses in museums not only provides average citizens with insights into cultures past, but also provides researchers with an opportunity to study the lives and deaths of our forbearers. I believe once you move past linear genealogical trees, so in most cases predating the 17th century, there are far fewer people who would object to exhumation of corpses. Often, for example with the Egyptians are there are no ethnic or religiously affiliated peoples left to be offended. In fact, there no is greater honor for a culture than to be studied, to be remember even after its people and monuments have become dust. There is a considerable difference between grave robbing and archeology. Grave robbing has the intent to sell or keep the recovered antiquities for the robbers own benefit, however archeology is based on the furthering of knowledge and spreading of that knowledge to the common masses or to the scientific community. And for the majority of people displaying corpses is a non-issue, there will always those that do take issue with the displaying of corpses but they are the vocal minority. The repatriation of antiquities is a whole other can of worms, seeing as it has political not just personal influences. What is most important is that science must always be pushed forward for the betterment of the humanity.