An Angus auction house is facing a backlash after it included human remains in a forthcoming sale.
Taylor’s Auctions in Montrose was planning to sell a human skull and a thigh bone in an auction taking place next month.
The items were listed as ex-medical display items and were estimated to fetch £20 to £40 each.
However, the company says it has now removed the items from its sale catalogue.
The auction had prompted calls for the items to be removed from sale on ethical grounds.
Posting on social media, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland strongly objected to human remains being offered for sale to the public.
Their post read: “Stop the sale.
“We recently learned that human remains are set to be sold at an Angus auction house on May 5 2022
“The Society contacted Taylor’s Auction Rooms of Montrose to request their removal from the auction, but they refused.
“The sale is currently going ahead.
“We stand with the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO) who believe that the sale of human remains is unethical.
“We strongly agree that it is wrong to commodify people as objects.”
Also listed is a composite model of a human hip bone, the sale of which has also been criticised.
The society agrees with BABAO’s stance that it is ethically objectionable to commodify the remains of people, highlighting the fact that the concept of ownership of most human remains is not recognised in law.
BABAO also highlights its concern that the existence of such a trade has been shown to encourage looting of both archaeological and contemporary burial sites.
STOP THE SALE!
We recently learned that human remains are set to be sold at an Angus auction house on 5 May 2022.
The Society contacted Taylor's Auction Rooms of Montrose to request their removal from the auction, but they refused.
The sale is currently going ahead (1/3) pic.twitter.com/0r2LCnRF0l
— Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (@socantscot) April 27, 2022
Although the laws around the ownership of human bones are complex, it is an offence to hold human remains that are fewer than 100 years old as defined in the Human Tissue Act 2004.
This is unless a licence has been obtained from the Human Tissue Authority.
BABAO has written to Taylor’s Auctions, requesting the removal of the human remains from the sale on ethical grounds.
In a letter seen by The Courier, it said: “We are disappointed to see these lots containing human remains and would like to politely request that they are withdrawn from sale, along with any others, particularly if the requisite documents
cannot be demonstrated.
“Upon withdrawal of the lots, we recommend that you make the consignor(s) aware that there are several UK institutions who would be willing to negotiate donation
The three lots were due to be included in a sale of militaria, domestic and rural bygones, which takes place on May 5.
Johnathon Taylor, manager at Taylor’s Auction Rooms, confirmed the three items were now being removed from the sale.
“While such items can be legally sold in the UK and are in auction houses nationwide, following consideration we have decided to remove the items from the forthcoming sale,” said Mr Taylor.
“The items are no longer included in the catalogue for that sale.
“The three lots represent a small fraction of 3,000-plus lots that we sell every month here at our auction room.”