Journal List > Anat Biol Anthropol > v.32(2) > 1129909

Anat Biol Anthropol. 2019 Jun;32(2):77-82. Korean.
Published online Jun 30, 2019.
© 2019 Korean Association of Physical Anthropologists
How to Return Mummified or Skeletal Human Remains to their Descendants after Anthropological Investigation
Chang Seok Oh,1 Dong Hoon Shin,1,2 Yong Geun Kim,3 and Jun Bum Park4
1Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.
2Institute of Forensic Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.
3Oneull Life Gangnam Funeral Education Center, Korea.
4Sangmyung University, Korea.

Correspondence to: Email:
Received May 15, 2019; Revised Jun 04, 2019; Accepted Jun 10, 2019.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The mummies and skeletons excavated at the archaeological excavation site are an anthropologically important research subject. However, after the scientific analysis on them, it is sometimes necessary return them to their relatives for reburial. The descendants expect that the ancestor's reburial process could be performed in fully respectful manner, but the details of the process have not been fully discussed among the researchers concerned. In this report, we thus tried to share our experience for treatment of the ancient people's dead body before moving over to the family. In general, it is necessary for anthropologists to be skilled enough to carry out the funeral ritual that is commonly accepted among the Korean people. In case of skeletonized cases, each body part should be placed in correct anatomical position inside the coffin. As for the mummies, we will treat them in more respectful manner; for instance, putting them on with new clothes before returning to the family. Taken together, when ancient people's skeletonized or mummified body would be returned to their family, the proper way of treatment should be applied according to each circumstance; and this careful consideration could be a great help to maintain the dignity of the people who was accidentally discovered at the ancient graves in excavation field.

Keywords: Joseon Dynasty; Mummy; Ethics; Return; Funeral director


Fig. 1
A skeletonized case from Joseon grave found at Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do. (A) The bone fragments (B) The fragmented bones wrapped in a Korean traditional paper. (C) Fetal bones also discovered from the grave. (D) Inside the coffin, the skeletonized remains were placed in an anatomical position. The coffin was filled with cotton.
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Fig. 2
A male mummy found in Joseon period grave (Gangneung). (A) The mummy. (B to D) After investigation, the mummy was wrapped in cotton by a funeral instructor. (E) The mummy was put into a coffin. (F) The mummy was returned to the descendants.
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Fig. 3
The discovery, investigation and return of human remains discovered at archaeological site.
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Fig. 4
The different way of treatments for ancient human remains.
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Fig. 5
The recommendation for treatment of ancient human remains. The method is based on the current protocol for modern funeral ritual.
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