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Human skull removed from “unethical” sale at Scottish auction house



Zelda Caldwell - published on 04/27/22

The human remains were listed as an “ex-medical display,” sparking outrage from an antiquarian society. Meanwhile, the online sale of human bones continues in the United States.

A Scottish auction house has agreed to remove a human skull and thigh bone from an upcoming amid charges that the sale would be “unethical.”

The human bones were listed as an “ex-medical display,” as part of the Militaria, Domestic & Rural Bygones sale at Taylor’s Auction Rooms in Angus, Scotland. 

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland said it is “wrong to commodify people as objects” and asked Taylor’s Auction Rooms to remove the items from the auction house’s catalog.

When the auction house refused to do so, the Society took to social media to ask people to contact Taylor’s Auction Rooms to “object to the sale of the human remains (lots 1508, 1510 and 1511).

“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,” read the tweet.

Jonathan Taylor, salesroom manager, said: “Although legal to sell, and being sold by auctions throughout the UK, the relevant lots have been withdrawn from the auction,” reported Yahoo News.

The human skull, thigh bone and composite model of a hip bone were valued at £20 to £40.

Yahoo News reported that Dr. Simon Gilmour, director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, said, “It is not illegal in Scotland to buy or sell human remains that fall out with the Human Tissue Act or the laws regarding sepulchre (burial), but we believe it is unethical.

“We support BABAO (British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology) in their statement on the issue. It is illegal to traffic living people, why would this change when someone dies?

“All human remains should be treated with dignity and respect, whether reburied or dealt with as per their personal wishes.”

U.S. sale of bones of TikTok

In the United States, while there is no federal law against the sale of human bones, the practice is considered unethical. That has not deterred certain people from doing it anyway.

Jon-Pichaya Ferry, known on TikTok as JonsBones, has used the social media platform to sell human bones, including fetus bones, on his website. He has over 22 million likes, and over 508,000 fans. His customers range from “chiropractors to universities to artists,” he told ABC News.


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♬ original sound – JonsBones

Robyn Wakefield Murphy, an assistant anatomy professor at New York Chiropractic College, has criticized Ferry’s business on TikTok.

“Human remains should never be sold. There are legitimate, ethical ways for institutions and researchers to obtain human bodies for research, and that is through cadaveric donation programs,” she said.

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