Human skull removed from auction after outcry
An auction house has withdrawn a human skull and thigh bone from sale after history experts blasted it as “unethical”.
The ex-medical items are listed in the Militaria, Domestic & Rural Bygones sale at Taylor’s Auction Rooms in Montrose, Angus on May 5.
The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland said it is “wrong to commodify people as objects” and asked Taylor’s to remove the items from the sale, and on Wednesday the auction house said the sale would no longer go ahead.
Jonathan Taylor, salesroom manager, said: “Although legal to sell, and being sold by auctions throughout the UK, the relevant lots have been withdrawn from the auction.”
Valued at £20 to £40, the skull was listed as “Human skull, ex-medical display complete with springs and hooks” while the human thigh bone, valued in the same range, was also described as “ex-medical display”.
Antiquarians were also objecting to the sale of a composite model of a human hip bone, also an ex-medical display, valued at £20 to £40.
Before the lots were removed, Dr Simon Gilmour, director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, told the PA news agency: “It is not illegal in Scotland to buy or sell human remains that fall outwith the Human Tissue Act or the laws regarding sepulchre (burial), but we believe it is unethical.
“We support BABAO (British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology) in their statement on the issue. It is illegal to traffic living people, why would this change when someone dies?
“All human remains should be treated with dignity and respect, whether reburied or dealt with as per their personal wishes.”