Assess the ethical issues involved in the study and display of human remains in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Whenever archaeologists and museum curators deal with human remains, they have to keep in mind a set of ethical values that should inform the ways that they treat the remains.

First of all, the scholars need to remember that these are the remains of human beings.  As such, they are entitled to be treated with dignity.  This is especially true if the display of the human remains would be hurtful to a particular community of living people.

At the same time, there is a duty to living people.  The display or study of human remains might yield knowledge that could enrich human life in the present and future.

These two ethical principles can, at times, come in conflict with one another.  However, it seems likely that, in this case, there will not be a real conflict.  The human remains are from a time that is so far in the past that there is little danger of people feeling that their actual ancestors are being displayed for all to gawk at.  Thus, no modern community is likely to be hurt by the study and display.

Because of this, the study and display of these remains will be ethical so long as the display is tasteful and respectful of the dead.

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