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Myles

Is it OK to disturb tombs?

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Just thought I would throw this out there. When is it OK to disturb or grave rob? After 100 years? After 1000 years.

We often find a tomb 3000 years old and open it up, take all the stuff for a museum or other collection. We'll disect the carcass. Just curious how old someone needs to be till it is OK to rip through it.

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You have chosen a good topic here Myles. I have often wondered about this myself. Personally, I think it is never okay to do so, whether or not you believe in an after-life, wether or not you believe that once gone, your gone and all that's left is rottable, rustable items that may interest others in years to come, I just think we should show respect for those who are dead.

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You're creating a false dichotomy. Grave robbing and archeology are completely different. One is illegal. The other is not. Archeology will respectfully document the find and if there is interest, put it in a museum. Many times the finds are protected so that grave robbers don't get their greedy hands on them. There are digs of soldiers who died in the US civil war - that ended in 1865. So about a hundred or so years depending on the circumstances. Archeologists don't generally excavate known graves unless they are ancient - on the order of thousands of years. If a people still exist, they are many times asked to participate in the discovery, reinterring, and preservation of the find. Grave robbers sell their finds to the nearest pawn shop.

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You're creating a false dichotomy. Grave robbing and archeology are completely different. One is illegal. The other is not. Archeology will respectfully document the find and if there is interest, put it in a museum. Many times the finds are protected so that grave robbers don't get their greedy hands on them. There are digs of soldiers who died in the US civil war - that ended in 1865. So about a hundred or so years depending on the circumstances. Archeologists don't generally excavate known graves unless they are ancient - on the order of thousands of years. If a people still exist, they are many times asked to participate in the discovery, reinterring, and preservation of the find. Grave robbers sell their finds to the nearest pawn shop.

But ninja whatever the time-scale, whom-ever has the 'qualifications and special interest' isn't it still robbing? Putting it on show for man-kind's thirst for knowlege or not, isn't it still looting?

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I would submit that "looting" and "robbing" have implications beyond the display of the same objects for the purpose of education. One is inherently selfish for personal gain, the other focused on sharing the immaterial wealth of knowledge.

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In a graveyard, here in Sweden, a grave is protected by the law in 15 years.

After that, if no one is minding the grave, it can be dug up and the remains if any discarded and another body put in that place.

But of course no unauthorized personnel are allowed digging in the graveyards.

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I'm not sure there is an easy answer to this. You cannot classify "grave robbers" as thugs who sell it at the nearest pawn shop. They could be highly skilled and selling the peice to a collector. Often times, the museums pay good money for the same stuff. The archeologists are getting paid in some way for the work or robbing they are doing. I'm not saying it is wrong, just that in a certain context a theif and an archeologist are not very different.

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An archeologist publishes his finds. A thief considers cataloging and documenting the site he took his find to be incriminating evidence.

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You cannot classify "grave robbers" as thugs who sell it at the nearest pawn shop. They could be highly skilled and selling the peice to a collector.

A highly skilled grave robber is not an archeologist. Science operates in the open. Robbers don't. They aren't even close to the same.

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A highly skilled grave robber is not an archeologist. Science operates in the open. Robbers don't. They aren't even close to the same.

They are both taking from the grave.

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So? Taking is not the same as stealing, no more than killing is the same as murdering, or painting the same as vandalism. Actions are not what define a crime. If they were, we wouldn't need a human jury; we would just need a computer to input the data and get a result.

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I suppose it depends whether the motive is introduced into the subject. Like I said, it is still taking from the grave. Whether is is taken for profit ar taken for a museum (which is usually profit for someone as well), it is still taking what does not belong to you. Does "In the name of science" justify all?

Don't get me wrong, I would be the first to open an ancient tomb to study the history inside.

The question remains....When is it acceptable? I'm asking on a ethical level. Not really the legal side.

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I'm not sure there is an easy answer to this. You cannot classify "grave robbers" as thugs who sell it at the nearest pawn shop. They could be highly skilled and selling the peice to a collector. Often times, the museums pay good money for the same stuff. The archeologists are getting paid in some way for the work or robbing they are doing. I'm not saying it is wrong, just that in a certain context a theif and an archeologist are not very different.

Grave robbers destroy sites, they trounce through them looking and taking only the most valuable items, everything else is just in their way. There is no comparison.

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Grave robbers destroy sites, they trounce through them looking and taking only the most valuable items, everything else is just in their way. There is no comparison.

Yes, whereas archeologists are much slower and they take everything. I am not defending grave robbers at all, I'm merely making the comparison for sake of the question of when is it OK to disturb a grave.

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It's OK to disturb a grave when there won't be too much opposition for the deceased.

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Yes, whereas archeologists are much slower and they take everything. I am not defending grave robbers at all, I'm merely making the comparison for sake of the question of when is it OK to disturb a grave.

So, if someone is burying there nearest and dearest this week and is thinking of getting an engraving on the head-stone perhaps they should consider putting a footnote something like: (No exhuming, robbing or excavating this grave in the next 100/1000 years, or so) Rest in Peace.

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Wouldn't be the first time. It was quite the fad back in Shakespeare's day. His was:

GOOD FREND FOR JESUS SAKE FORBEARE TO

DIGG THE DUST ENCLOASED HEARE.

BLEST BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES AND

CURST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES

Again, the dead don't seem to have a great deal of interest in their graves. It's up to the living to object, and if no one is objecting, then it is up to the individual. Since it is an individual, their motives must be taken into consideration. An archeologist wants the dead to be remembered. A thief wants them forgotten.

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No.Never is it okay.Especially when museums take the actual mummy.I have to wonder, "Will my body be in that display case in 1000 years?" Jeez.Respect for the dead.

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Why not! You can make all kinds of adornments. Soup bowls out of skulls, a floating mobile out of vertebrae, A nice long femur, sharpened to a weapon, mummified skin as new furniture upholstery, or maybe a lamp shade, teeth drilled and made into a necklace. Of course, sell the organs to the Chinese. Think how much your neighbours will admire you!

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It's OK to disturb a grave when there won't be too much opposition for the deceased.

I like this answer because it is true to how it is done today. So, if noone is around to complain, it is OK to exume a body of someone buried 30 years ago as long as the possesions with the body are put on display and the body is studied.

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I volunteer for digs (I do grunt work) and have been at two digs involving the discovery of bodies. The archeologists were incredibly respectful of the bodies. One was the body of a former slave who had basically been tossed into a swamp by her "owners" after she died. The body was excavated with incredible care, studied and then interred in the cemetery of a local church (where some of the parishioners traced their ancestry back to slavery). A minister read some Biblical passages. All of the folks who'd worked on the dig attended the reinterment service.

It's possible to get scientific information from human remains without being disrespectful.

If you can locate descendents of the dead they should make the decision on what should be done.

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I like this answer because it is true to how it is done today. So, if noone is around to complain, it is OK to exume a body of someone buried 30 years ago as long as the possesions with the body are put on display and the body is studied.

Same goes: If no-one is around to complain, it is OK to exhume a body of someone buried yesterday, as long as the possessions with the body are put on display and the body is studied. ??

(It would sure demystify and change the whole concept of funerals and burials for everyone.)

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If the distinct people who were involved in the burial, and/or the people living in the area of the burial agree to the dig, it's okay. Either - assuming the culture that did the burial site still exists - says no, you respect their wishes and leave the place be. Odds are eventually they will change their mind, just wait it out by going about your business elsewhere.

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Comparing an archeologist to a grave robber is the same as comparing a surgeon to a butcher. :mellow:

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Comparing an archeologist to a grave robber is the same as comparing a surgeon to a butcher. mellow.gif

Don't they both cut up flesh?

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