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.