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Child 167

There is currently much discussion, and rightly so, about whether it is appropriate or otherwise to have human remains (even if they are ancient) on display in museums. I am not sure what such a practice might teach us about the person these bones once were part of, or the times they lived in; yet presumably the fate of such remains would otherwise be to languish unseen forever in some anonymous box in storage, telling no-one anything at all, and perhaps that seems no better an outcome.

In the Museum in Derby, there is one such sad example…. there lies in a glass case the pathetic fragmentary remains of a child little more than a toddler, its age and gender unknown. Its burial circa 200 AD was accompanied by some ceremony also lost to history, together with two very small bronze bracelets, presumably worn during life. There is so very little left of the physical remains, a few stick-like bones and thin fragments of a skull shattered like an egg, but what is most striking is the survival of an array of tiny white teeth, still with their distinct pearly shine. They are the same kind of little teeth every parent has surreptitiously exchanged for money beneath the pillow of a sleeping child which makes this educational exhibit still very poignant.

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