King Arthur Loses His Battle to Protect Druid Remains

King Arthur

King Arthur Pendragon (formerly known as John Timothy Rothwell) lost his battle at the High Court today to prevent Sheffield University researchers conducting further research on the cremated remains of at least 40 individuals that were discovered at Stonehenge in 2008. Signing himself into the court register as “Arthur Rex” King Arthur (57) who changed his name by deed pole in 1986  told the judge that the bones were remains of members of the “royal line” or “priest caste” who could have been the “founding fathers of this great nation.” However Mr Justice Wyn Williams refused permission to launch a judicial review action, ruling that there was insufficient grounds that the investigators had acted unreasonably.

I have often wondered how these decisions are arrived at. We know in recent years that museums have had to return the remains of a number of indigenous peoples whose modern day ancestors have requested them back for burial. But what is considered reasonable? Some relics are hundreds of years old. So it can’t be simply time. What happens when national boundaries shift? What does it mean to be British? Many of these issues of origins are steeped in psychological notions of identity which are more to do with narratives, rather than well defined categories and yet people expend a lot of effort and grief over chunks of matter.


Filed under In the News

6 responses to “King Arthur Loses His Battle to Protect Druid Remains

  1. I think what makes it “reasonable” is whether the nation wanting to do the researching have been guilty in recent history of massively screwing over the descendants and/or contemporaries of the people whose remains are in question. Which is unfortunately a totally irrational criterion, but we are humans after all.

    So as you’ve written about, we’ve all got this innate intuition that the remains “mean something”, even though it’s obvious they don’t. Most of the time people can get over that, but if the irrational perception that the researchers are somehow “violating” the remains happens to be a good metaphor for one culture “violating” another in the recent past, then it’s harder to let go of the magical thinking aspect. At least that’s my take.

    It sucks, but I don’t see a way around it.

  2. brucehood

    Yes, James I agree. I think the physical matter is a placeholder for non-physical issues that are unresolved – hence the battles of land, buildings relics etc

  3. Rox

    Curiously enough, somebody called ‘Roger’ has already left the following comment to the Yahoo news item for this, and I agree with it :

    ” If the remains are not considerably more than five centuries old, they would have no connection with ancient Druids, and King Arthur has no connection with ancient Druids either. Moreover, the connection between Stonehenge and Druids is an 18th century myth (although it is perhaps not unlikely that the real pre-Roman druids did make use of what was already there).

    In what is largely a rational secular age, it is reasonable that the State as a whole should decide what is done with archaeological finds, and certainly there is no reason why a self-styled King Arthur should be in charge of Stonehenge. Even with Christian items, the churches normally go along with this position. There are even now important relics from the Vatican and elsewhere at an exhibition in the British Museum, and recently a reliquary containing the bones of an early British saint have been dug up and examined in Oxfordshire, with no sign of the Church of England or RC church intervening.

    We should not bow down to ‘King Arthur’. ”

    Readers have awarded ‘Roger’ 15 thumbs-up for this already, which is a lot, and perhaps indicates that we really do live in a predominately rational secular age !

  4. Rox

    Originally the Yahoo report said the bones were more than 5 centuries old, which did seem odd. Hence my first sentence !

    They have now changed it to 5,000 years, but this doesn’t really make a lot of difference.

    100, 1,000, million, billion, what’s the difference really ? These are journalists, not men of science. A trillion dollars always sounds a lot. 99% sounds a lot, too, and is a statistic which turns up suspiciously frequently.

  5. Coincidentally, I saw this guy in the movie The Nature of Existence the other night. Funny thing is he made more sense than a lot of the traditionally religious people they interviewed… their metaphysical beliefs were all equally wacky, but this guy’s practical beliefs were reasonable and sane.

  6. Rox

    Yes, another funny thing on these lines: in the London “Metro” free paper for 6th September, a lady complains that she was “sectioned” merely for being depressed, which she says is “a genuine illness”, but her partner thought she was suicidal and the police thought she was aggressive, both mistakenly. But “there were other people who were absolutely barking”, including one who spent the nights talking to God ! An Irish friend tells me that it is accepted that some women over there encounter the Virgin Mary in their kitchen from time to time, and enjoy some respect for it, whereas in this country he knows they would be locked up (if there was room).

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