We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

'Sapient trouble-tombs'? : archaeologists' moral obligations to the dead.

Scarre, Geoffrey (2013) ''Sapient trouble-tombs'? : archaeologists' moral obligations to the dead.', in The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of death and burial. , pp. 665-676. Oxford handbooks in archaeology.


This chapter argues that moral questions raised by archaeological research on human remains are helpfully studied 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 antemortem 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.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is a draft of a chapter that was accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in the book 'The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of death and burial' edited by Sarah Tarlow and Liv Nilsson Stutz and published in 2013.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:25 June 2014
Date of first online publication:June 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar