The British Museum holds and cares for human remains from around the world. Representing diverse cultures over thousands of years, this important collection is a unique record of the varied ways different societies have conceived of death and disposed of the remains of the dead.
Their display and study provides one of the most direct and insightful sources of information on past human biology, different cultural approaches to death, burials practices and belief systems, including ideas about the afterlife.
Mummy of a priestess, aged 25-40, in painted cartonnage casing with a gilded face, named Tjentmutengebtiu.
The British Museum holds and cares for over 6000 human remains. Ancient Egyptian mummies have been on display for over 100 years and are amongst the British Museum’s most popular exhibits.
The collection mostly consists of skeletal remains from archaeological excavations in the British Isles and the Nile valley but also includes bog bodies, intentionally and naturally mummified bodies. There are also more recent objects from different parts of the world made in part or wholly of human remains.
The human remains held in the British Museum collection are a unique record of how societies have conceived of death and disposed of the remains of their dead. The analysis of human remains contributes significantly to academic disciplines such as archaeology and physical anthropology, furthering our understanding of past societies, funerary practices and human biology.
The British Museum is committed to curating the human remains in its collection with care, respect and dignity.
The Museum has developed a policy that outlines the principles governing the respectful and lawful holding, display, study and care of human remains in the British Museum’s collection. It also states the circumstances in which the British Museum Trustees may consider a request for the de-accession and transfer of human remains.
A publication on the British Museum’s approach to the issues surrounding the inclusion of human remains in museum collections and possible solutions to the dilemmas relating to their curation, storage, access management and display.