3:37pm Thursday 1st February 2007
By Nigel Kerton
DRUIDS are demanding the re-burial of a child's skeleton displayed in the stone circle museum in Avebury.
On Tuesday the Council of British Druids backed up their request with a small ceremony at the Alexander Keiller Museum.
The child's skeleton was discovered during excavations at the North Ditch at Windmill Hill in 1929. Dubbed Charlie or Charlotte, is one of the most popular exhibits in the museum.
Now the Order of Druids, the group that celebrates mother earth and holds solstice ceremonies at Avebury, wants the skeleton reinterred.
The druids are in talks with the National Trust, which runs the museum, over the issue.
Experts say it is likely that many skeletons, skulls and other human remains in British museums will have to be considered for reburial.
In Australia the Aboriginals and in the USA the Native Americans have successfully fought for the return of ancestral remains.
Now the National Trust and other museum authorities in the UK could face a similar barrage of requests.
David Thackray, head of archaeology at the National Trust, and Sebastian Payne, chief scientist at English Heritage, issued a joint statement.
It said: "Human remains have a unique status within museum collections and should always be treated with respect."
Leading Avebury archaeologist Mike Pitts said he was sympathetic to the request from the druids. He said: "The issue of how we handle and display human remains in museums is of great importance." The ceremony outside the museum was led by the druid Lady Archdeacon of Glastonbury Denise Price and involved prayers for the child.
Paul Davis from the Council of British Druids said he was sure their request would be successful.
Mr Davis said: "It will happen, it's just a case of whentomorrow, in ten years or in 100 years."
Archaeologists have found a huge ancient settlement used by the people who built Stonehenge.
Excavations at Durrington Walls, near the legendary Salisbury Plain monument, uncovered remains of houses dating back to 2,600-2,500 BC, the same period that Stonehenge was built.
Experts say people seem to have occupied the sites seasonally, using them for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.
In ancient times, the settlement would have housed hundreds of people, making it the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain.
Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson, from Sheffield University, said: "This is where they went to party - you could say it was the first free festival.
"In what were houses, we have excavated the outlines on the floors of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards."
The researchers have excavated eight houses in total that belonged to the Durrington settlement. But they have identified many other probable dwellings using geophysical surveying equipment.
The archaeologists think there could have been at least 100 houses. Each one would have measured about 5m (16ft) square: "fairly pokey", according to Professor Parker Pearson.
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