“While EBay has a policy that states that human body parts are not permitted to be traded through their website, requests for these items to be removed from sale have been met with silence. AAA requests EBay afford greater attention to the trafficking in human remains via their website”, stated AAA President Lynley Wallis.  “Most countries have legislation to protect antiquities such as these from being removed from their country of origin or being sold, however once they have left the nation it is very difficult to enforce legislation; the situation is made more complex by the sale of such items on the internet.” 

Regardless of the legal origin of the remains, AAA and WAC urges EBay to act in accordance with standards of human decency and withdraw these remains from sale. AAA and WAC base their objection to this sale on the Australian Archaeological Association Code of Ethics  and the World Archaeological Code of Ethics, the latter of which includes the Vermillion Accord on Human Remains and the Tamaki Makau-rau Accord on the Display of Human Remains and Sacred Objects. 

Dr Claire Smith (WAC President) noted that the first principle of the Vermillion Accord declares “Respect for the mortal remains of the dead shall be accorded to all, irrespective of origin, race, religion, nationality, custom and tradition.”  She stated “The buying and selling of human remains can not be considered respectful treatment.” 

In Australia, the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 includes provisions that allow the Australian Government to respond to official requests from foreign governments to return their nation’s cultural heritage objects that have been illegally exported. The Act is not intended to restrict legitimate trade in cultural property and does not affect an individual’s right to own or sell within Australia.  If members of the Australian public are concerned about whether an item they wish to purchase or sell might contravene this act, they are urged to contact the Cultural Property Section of the Federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 

AAA Contact:
Dr Lynley Wallis – 07 3365 3861 or president@australianarchaeology.com

WAC Contact:
Dr Sean Ulm – 07 3365 2385 or s.ulm@uq.edu.au

The Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) is one of the largest archaeological organisations in Australia, formed in the 1970s to represent a diverse membership of professionals and others interested in archaeology. The Association promotes the advancement of archaeology; provides an organisation for the discussion and dissemination of archaeological information and ideas; convenes meetings at regular intervals; publicises the need for the study and conservation of archaeological sites and collections; and publicises the work of the Association. At the end of 2009, AAA had more than 700 members, from historical, maritime and Indigenous archaeology and cultural heritage management backgrounds.
URL: http://www.australianarchaeologicalassociation.com.au/

The World Archaeological Congress is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and is the only elected international body of practising archaeologists. WAC holds an international congress every four years to promote the exchange of the results of archaeological research; professional training and public education for disadvantaged nations, groups and communities; the empowerment and betterment of Indigenous groups and First Nations peoples; and the  conservation of archaeological sites.
URL: http://www.worldarchaeologicalcongress.org/

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Federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts URL on moveable cultural heritage