Era: Stone Age
Status: Active Project
History – Aubrey Hole VII
In August 2008 a team of archaeologists, working at Stonehenge, under the aegis of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, directed by Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University, excavated cremated human remains from Aubrey Hole VII. These remains had originally been excavated, from various locations around Stonehenge, in the 1920s by William Hawley and had been reinterred, all together, in Aubrey Hole VII in 1935. The Ministry of Justice licensed the removal of the cremated remains in 2008 with the condition that the remains be reburied after two years, during which time the Stonehenge Riverside Project could study the remains. Initial research focused on attempting to discover more information on the individuals buried at Stonehenge.
In July 2010 an application to extend the license granted by the Ministry of Justice in 2008 to the Stonehenge Riverside Project was submitted to the Ministry of Justice by Mike Parker Pearson. The 5-year extension application sought further time to study the remains on the basis that the initial two years of study had been inadequate to satisfactorily analyze and radio carbon date all the remains from the estimated sixty individuals whose remains form the collection. If granted the continued analysis will form the basis of a PhD project at the University of Sheffield, where the remains will continue to be held until the PhD has been examined and awarded.
At the time the extension application was received the Ministry of Justice invited comment and response from other concerned and interested parties. Initially Andrew Tucker, of the Ministry of Justice, and more recently, his successor on this issue, Robert Clifford has given assurances that all responses and comments received will be taken into account by the Ministry when it makes its decision on the license extension.
Current Status – November 2010
The Ministry of Justice has now completed its review of the license extension application and has informed HAD, and all interested parties, that they have decided to grant the license extension. This means that the propsed continued research on these human remains will go ahead. However, the MOJ has given assurances that the remains will be reinttered once the research is completed, and that pagan communities will continue to be consulted regarding this issue. Below please find the text of the MOJ’s response.
‘Careful thought has been given to the arguments put forward by all
parties. While druid representatives have set out clearly the reasons
why they believe the remains should be re-buried without delay, the
significance of the remains from what is a World Heritage Site was also
taken into account.
Permission for the original excavation was only granted after very
careful consideration, and the interests of stakeholders including
Druids and Pagans were considered. While it is unfortunate that that
the time needed to undertake the research work was underestimated, it is
not considered right to curtail the work that has been carried out so
far. The decision has therefore been made to grant an extension to the
re-burial condition for five years, in accordance with the application
made on behalf of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.
Instructions for the licence to be amended have therefore been given.
However, it is proposed that once the work has been completed the
religious views of the Pagans and Druids will be respected and the
HAD’s Involvement and Position
Since the initial application in 2008 for the re-excavation of the cremated human remains HAD has followed the development of this issue and liaised, at various appropriate times, with government agencies, archaeologists, and other concerned pagan organizations.
As with all of its projects HAD has worked to maintain positive dialogue with all concerned parties and continues to believe that listening to all viewpoints, combined with reasoned argument are the best ways to promote change in this issue.
HAD supports the reburial of these cremated remains as soon as possible and has formally responded to the Ministry of Justice over the recent license extension application. Details of HAD’s response can be found in the PDF file attached below.
Other Pagan Involvement
Many other pagan organizations have taken an active interest in this issue, particularly the Stonehenge Druids (who organized a long running petition in 2009 at Stonehenge calling for the reburial of these human remains) and the Sacred Grove of the Western Isles. Further details on their positions and activities can be found at the links below.