A British Auction House Has Withdrawn The Sale Of 18 Ancient Egyptian Human Skulls After Facing Backlash For Perpetuating Exploitation, Colonialism, And Dehumanization

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After facing severe backlash, an auction house in England has withdrawn the sale of 18 human skulls belonging to ancient Egyptians.

The cancelation came after a British Member of Parliament, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, criticized the sale, calling it “despicable” and saying that it “perpetuates a dark legacy of exploitation, colonialism, and dehumanization.” The MP also believes that the sale of human remains should be prohibited.

The British auction house Semley Auctioneers in Dorset had listed 18 skulls for sale, setting guide prices between about $255 and $383.

Among the remains were 10 men, five women, and three people whose genders could not be identified. They were originally collected by Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, a Victorian British soldier and archaeologist. He founded the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford in 1884.

He displayed this collection of skulls in a private museum on his estate located in Farnham, Dorset. Some of the skulls came from Thebes and date back between 1550 and 1292 B.C. Later on, his grandson, George Pitt Rivers, sold parts of the collection.

The U.K. has strict rules about the caring, storing, and displaying of human remains. But anyone can buy, sell, or own human body parts as long as they are for the sole purpose of decoration.

Initially, the auction house defended its decision to sell the skulls, stating that they were legally acquired and were of historical interest. However, after public criticism, they removed the items from sale.

Ribeiro-Addy said, “We cannot allow profit to be made from the exploits of those who often hoped to find evidence for their racist ideology.”

“It is imperative that we take decisive action to end such practices and ensure that the remains of those who were stolen from their homelands are respectfully repatriated.”

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