Druids and archaeologists battle over display of human remains at Stonehenge
A heated debate is currently taking place between archaeologists, who insist that bones of ancient Britons buried near Stonehenge should be put on display in the new £27 million visitor centre, and a group of Druids who are campaigning for the bones to be reburied.
The argument taking place revolves around questions about human dignity and how best to educate people about history.
Archaeologist Julian Richards said that “coming face to face, or face to skull” with an ancient Briton was important as it helped visitors “make that connection” with the people who built Stonehenge. According to Richards, some museums are adopting an overly conciliatory approach, which removes the opportunity for people to learn through seeing. “Given that the past is about understanding people, then those physical remains of those people, especially if they can be used to illustrate something about the life of someone, are a very powerful thing,” said Richards.
However, the leader of the Druid group, Arthur Pendragon, a former soldier who changed his name by deed poll and who claims to be a reincarnation of King Arthur, said he planned to lead up to 200 “robed up” druids at a protest. “We believe the ancient dead should have as much respect as the recent dead,” he said. “The way I see it, it’s not just a druid or pagan issue. It’s just one of common decency and respect – let those at rest stay at rest.”
While English Heritage, the ‘keepers’ of Stonehenge are willing to respect the Druids right to peaceful demonstration, Julian Richards is less willing to hear them out. According to Richards, modern day druids do not have the right to speak on behalf of ancient Britons because they do not have any direct cultural lineage.
Stonehenge’s new visitor centre opens tomorrow and plans are for the human remains to go on display. The druid’s protest will be launched alongside the opening.
By John Black