UK auction house removes Egyptian skulls from sale after outcry

LONDON: A UK auction house has removed 18 ancient Egyptian human skulls from sale amid condemnation by a member of Parliament, The Guardian reported.


Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the sale of human remains for any purpose should be outlawed and described the trade as a “gross violation of human dignity.”


Semley Auctioneers in Dorset had listed the skulls with a guide price of £200-£300 ($250-$374) for each lot. The collection included 10 male skulls, five female and three of an uncertain sex.


Some of the skulls were listed as coming from Thebes and dating back to They were originally collected by Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, an English soldier and archaeologist who established the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, which contains about 22,000 items.


After being housed at a separate private museum on his estate, the skulls were sold as part of a larger collection to his grandson, George Pitt Rivers, who was interned during the Second World War for supporting fascist leader Oswald Mosley.


Ribeiro-Addy said: “This despicable trade perpetuates a dark legacy of exploitation, colonialism and dehumanization. It is a gross violation of human dignity and an affront to the memory of those whose lives were unjustly taken, or whose final resting places were desecrated.


“We cannot allow profit to be made from the exploits of those who often hoped to find evidence for their racist ideology. It is imperative that we take decisive action to end such practices and ensure that the remains of those who were stolen from their homelands are respectfully repatriated.”


Britain has strict guidelines on the storage and treatment of human remains, but their sale is permitted provided they are obtained legally.


Saleroom, an online auction site, removed the skulls from sale after being contacted by The Guardian. Its website states that human remains are prohibited from sale.


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