Cultural Heritage and the Ritual of Burial
(2011) 42 Cambrian Law Review 131-148
19 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 13, 2011
Archaeological evidence for the ritual of burial goes back tens of thousands of years, making it one of the fundamentals of human culture. This therefore helps to explain why the issue of retaining human remains in museums around the world is such a sensitive issue. However, rather than being an issue confined to the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology, the issue of human remains and their burial also arises within the discourse of law. The cultural importance of burial and the treatment of human remains is reflected in domestic laws dealing with the protection of burial sites, both for the general population as well as for Indigenous people. More recently, the law has had to determine what rights surviving family members should have in determining the burial rites of their kin, particularly when there is a conflict within the surviving family as to where the body should be buried, and what burial rituals should be performed. While the law is still grappling with rights of Indigenous people in relation to human remains of their ancestors, there is a very different and unambiguous approach to dealing with human remains of solders from the Western Front in France. This paper will therefore canvass the ways in which the law intersects with the expressions of culture through burial rites.
Keywords: burial, cultural heritage, Indigenous peoples, war, Western Front, law
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