Sunday, 3 May 2009

Human Remains - a moral dilemma?

I thought I should return to the Lichen-stricken cemetery at St David's in Pembrokeshire. Under the cover of darkness, a badger had come and dug close to a grassy perimeter bank on the west side of the site. A close look at the excavated earth revealed a short piece of clay pipe stem which my imagination suggested the Victorian gravedigger had lost when he dropped and smashed his pipe while digging a grave. Just like a bird or deer skull found in the woods at home, I thought this was an allowable artefact to add to my collection of found objects.

Some yards away, I was very surprised to notice a section of rib or perhaps collarbone lying on the grass. I picked it up and examined it with a lot of curiousity about how it got there. I guess it was uncovered by the badger and may have been picked up and quickly dropped again by a passing fox. Coming from the edge of the graveyard where there are no apparent graves, I can offer no explanation of why the natural instincts of a badger should lead to its exposure.

I will be totally honest and admit that for a nano-second I thought, "Gosh, another nice found object for my collection" and just as quickly realised that this was an unacceptable thought. Others may have had similar thoughts in the past. Placing it on a stone where it could be seen easily, I left the graveyard.

Now, my moral dilemma is that I wonder whether I should have informed someone. There were no contact details for whoever responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery on display at the entrance. In the absence of this, should I have informed the police or written to the local council? Even at this late stage, two weeks later, should I make the effort to draw the authorities attention to this find - perhaps it is a common occurence? I would welcome the thoughts of others, so please comment here. I look forward to hearing your views.


  1. Oh boy, Laurie, looks like you are set to make a fortune with that Twitter scheme... spammed !

    Guess the badger must have been digging where there had been graves long ago? In my various wanderings I have often seen pieces of bones on the ground in cemeteries, in odd places. Graves get dug up to make room for new ones, often I think with little care for the previous occupants... many cemeteries in France have an "ossuary" for old bones that no longer have an "owner". Would love to see your collection of found objects... sounds interesting... best, Owen

  2. Thanks, Owen. The Twitter Spam is now junked! Only the second item of spam received so far, thankfully . . . I have an old postcard which illustrates what you are saying about ossuaries. I'll try and post it tomorrow.

  3. PS I can't stand punners ! If you see or hear of anyone doing any punning, let me know, we'll send them off to the chicken prison to be feathered ! Funny, I got that same Twitter spam too... see you,

  4. PPS (sorry for polluting your comments with so many !) Wanted to let you know Chapter 5 of the Dog Cemetery just appeared this evening. Best, Owen

  5. Hi Laurie~ Badgers appear to be one of the smartest and revengeful animals on the earth. They are very strong and apparently have great memories. Their digging for food coupled with their enormous strength is well-known. I'm sure the badger meant no harm in bringing the old bones to the surface. Hopefully, the bones were remnants of a life on earth long gone, and the soul of the body was at peace. I think you should take the bone and lightly dig a shallow hole where you found it and replace it into the earth.