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King Arthur fails in High Court bid over human remains

The High Court has rejected a bid by a representative of the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO), King Arthur Uther Pendragon, to return cremated remains to an ancient burial site at Stonehenge. The remains, thought to be over 5000 years old, had been excavated from the site in 2008 and are currently being kept for research by scientists at the University of Sheffield. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has described the decision as ‘sensible’.

King Arthur was fighting a Ministry of Justice decision to allow researchers to analyse the samples for five more years. In 2008 the BHA campaigned against a similar attempt by CoBDO to have prehistoric human remains reburied in Avebury, Wiltshire, and in 2009 applauded the decision by English Heritage to reject that request.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Ancient remains such as these excavated from sites at Stonehenge are of undoubted scientific, historical, educational and archaeological value and they are vital for future scientific and historical research. We welcome the sensible decisions both by the Ministry of Justice for supporting continued scientific research of the remains, and by the High Court in rejecting the bid to put a stop to that important work.’

‘Druids have no more genetic ‘claim’ over the human remains than anyone else in Western Europe and similarly the remains are not of value exclusively to them. Their unshared beliefs should certainly not trump the wide and clear benefit in not having the remains reburied while they are still of such value.’


For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips at or 020 7079 3585.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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