Richard III's body was a treasure house for science and history. Discovered in 2012 under a Leicester parking lot, the skeleton of the last English monarch to die in battle quickly became the subject of intense public scrutiny. The archaeological study of the remains provided vital historical answers to the king's controversial life and death. Just several bones and teeth offered science a wealth of data about the king's origins, movements, lifestyle and diet. Yet, Richard III's fate was not to be preserved in a museum but returned to a grave.
The silence of scientists on Richard III's reburial is deafening. It stands in stark contrast to how so many regard the reburial of Native American human remains in museums. Around the world archaeologists have resisted the return of skeletons for decades -- arguing that they are needed for science. Even nearly 25 years after the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became federal law, only 27% of the Native skeletons in U.S. museums have been offered for return. More than 100,000 skeletons continue to sit on shelves. In Europe, only in the last few years have the first sets of Native American remains come home.
Then again, the silence is not especially surprising. The double standard for White and Indian bodies has a long and established tradition.