Human Remains and Archaeology: The Legal Situation

  • Agnès Mathieu Sous-direction de l’archéologie, Service du patrimoine, Direction générale des patrimoines, Ministère de la culture, Paris
Keywords: law, archaeology, ethics, human remains, anthropobiological remains, heritage code
Language(s): French


The subject of human remains in archaeology is linked to ethical or societal issues that call into question the notion of “dignity” and therefore of “respect” due to the human body. In archaeological research, the “human remain” is, to a certain extent, an object of study like other archaeological objects. This normality results from the scientific nature of the process, but also from the anonymity that is most often attached to the human remains uncovered. This duality between ethics and professional deontology is logically reflected in the subject’s legal understanding. There are thus general standards in civil law or funeral law that do not specifically concern archaeology, but which may apply to some of its situations. Specific standards are needed to reconcile the ethical issues related to human remains with the scientific issues of archaeology. But defining such standards is not easy, as evidenced by recent work in France on the law on freedom of creation, architecture and heritage (LCAP).

How to Cite
Mathieu A. Human Remains and Archaeology: The Legal Situation. Can. J. Bioeth. 2019;2:201-5.