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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that it is helpful to study moral questions raised by archaeological research on human remains in the context of a broader range of questions about the ethically proper relations between the living and the dead. How, for instance, if death is extinction of the self, can anything that is done to a person’s remains after her death constitute a harm or wrong? Whilst a common moral intuition prompts us to treat the remains, memories, and ante-mortem wishes of the dead with respect, justifying that intuition has proved to be problematic on the assumption that the dead are no more. However, recent philosophical work is adduced to show that persuasive reasons can be given for treating the dead respectfully, that these reasons are distinct from those relating to archaeologists’ responsibilities to descendant communities, and that they do not preclude all archaeological work that deals with the dead, though they do attach strings to it.

Keywords: archaeology, the dead, harm, posthumous interests, respect, Vermillion Accord

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