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Do mummies have a right to privacy?

Posted on Tuesday, 14 September, 2010 | Comment icon 46 comments | News tip by: Still Waters


Image credit: Jon Bodsworth

 
Ancient mummies are often exhumed and studied but shouldn't our ancestors have a right to rest in peace ?

Issues concerning the privacy and beliefs of long-deceased Egyptian mummies have been called in to question as the removal and study of ancient bodies seems to be becoming more and more commonplace.

"Should we consider the privacy or reputation of the individual when analysing an Egyptian mummy? The assumption that ancient corpses are fair game for science is beginning to be challenged."

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 Source: New Scientist


  Discuss: View comments (46)

   


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #37 Posted by Blue Lizard on 16 September, 2010, 23:25
Yes, you can call it souls, continued experience, or anything - all I mean to refer is the substance or entity (if conscious and alive) that exists after life. It doesn't matter how you view it but scientifically, you either end at death or continue after death, and as long as there are no scientific evidences to prove either - they are equally possible. This is my argument and so please don't misconstrue this again. One is not less probably than the other without scientific evidences. I am not saying that it is a soul or that it will travel into all the dimensions and join with O-P or God or ... [More]
Comment icon #38 Posted by Druidus-Logos on 17 September, 2010, 2:17
Yes, you can call it souls, continued experience, or anything - all I mean to refer is the substance or entity (if conscious and alive) that exists after life. It doesn't matter how you view it but scientifically, you either end at death or continue after death, and as long as there are no scientific evidences to prove either - they are equally possible. This is my argument and so please don't misconstrue this again. One is not less probably than the other without scientific evidences. I am not saying that it is a soul or that it will travel into all the dimensions and join with O-P or God or ... [More]
Comment icon #39 Posted by Blue Lizard on 17 September, 2010, 2:51
Yeah, I am fine with X-rays and MRI's to a certain extent, if is actually necessary. But, definitely against cutting them up and finding their secrets like how they died because they are junk food or had bad teeth. I am glad we could reach to some kind of conclusion
Comment icon #40 Posted by Wickian on 17 September, 2010, 4:36
If they weren't so greedy maybe. Cultural/social differences aside, they had servants murdered and buried with them to have slaves in the afterlife. They had enough pampering while living to last an after-lifetime(excuse the bad joke). Regardless of moral objections, they're dead. If I died right now all that would be left is an inanimate object in the shape of a human. Do you feel it's "wrong" to break open a rock to see what it's made of? I don't really care what happens to my body after death as long as it doesn't get preserved in any way. The doctors can harvest me for salvageable organs a... [More]
Comment icon #41 Posted by kmt_sesh on 18 September, 2010, 4:31
This is a subject that comes up sometimes at the two Chicago museums where I work as a docent. At the Field Museum of Natural History we have over twenty mummies in our Egyptian galleries (and a dozen more in storage), and in the Oriental Institute, at the University of Chicago, three are on display. People sometimes ask me about the ethical issues of displaying human remains. Is it appropriate? Is there a valid reason? What would the ancient Egyptians themselves think? The first two questions can be debated ad nauseam depending on one's modern sensibilities and personal point of view, but the... [More]
Comment icon #42 Posted by kmt_sesh on 18 September, 2010, 4:48
Yeah, I am fine with X-rays and MRI's to a certain extent, if is actually necessary. But, definitely against cutting them up and finding their secrets like how they died because they are junk food or had bad teeth. I am glad we could reach to some kind of conclusion In a follow-up to my previous post, it's quite enlightening what the teeth of Egyptian bodies have revealed to us. I stress again, however, that "cutting them up" is not how it's done. In most cases the careful analysis of professionally filmed X-rays is all that's needed. Paleopathology, the study of ancient diseases, is an integr... [More]
Comment icon #43 Posted by Blue Lizard on 18 September, 2010, 23:55
This is a subject that comes up sometimes at the two Chicago museums where I work as a docent. At the Field Museum of Natural History we have over twenty mummies in our Egyptian galleries (and a dozen more in storage), and in the Oriental Institute, at the University of Chicago, three are on display. People sometimes ask me about the ethical issues of displaying human remains. Is it appropriate? Is there a valid reason? What would the ancient Egyptians themselves think? The first two questions can be debated ad nauseam depending on one's modern sensibilities and personal point of view, but the... [More]
Comment icon #44 Posted by kmt_sesh on 19 September, 2010, 5:19
I am glad we got someone who knows about the Egyptians in a great amount of detail. I personally learned a lot from your information on afterlife and Egyptian culture, despite the fact that I have read a lot about them in the past. However, the question about right to privacy is a bit more tricky. You have given us enough information to understand that there was no way the Egyptians would have ever agreed to something like this, which I had also previously pointed in out in my other posts. So, now we have the question of whether or not to study their bodies despite the fact that we know for su... [More]
Comment icon #45 Posted by Blue Lizard on 19 September, 2010, 18:09
Greetings, Blue Lizard. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think you're following an argument based more on ethics, which is something a lot of people wrestle with on this issue of Egyptian mummies. Believe me, I do try to understand that perspective because it is valid to consider and, equally important, it reminds the scientist to treat human remains with dignity and respect. However, rights to privacy are not really applicable to ancient Egyptian mummies. This is separate from the more ethical quandary of disturbing the dead of past cultures. Quite literally, Egyptian mummies cannot cla... [More]
Comment icon #46 Posted by minera on 2 October, 2010, 3:57
(/quote)I will end by saying this. This is not a question about souls, life and everything we know, but whether or not we should respect the consent of others regarding their own bodies. If we think that each one of us has the right to consent about whether to use our body for science or not, then the Egyptians have that same right. We can infer from historic evidence that they would have not agreed to be examined and experimented, and so it is just like a live person consenting before their death (since they believed those things when they were alive). This should be valued as equally importa... [More]


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