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Ethics & Standards

BABAO Guidelines & Codes

We recommend that all BABAO members read and take note of these important documents. Note that they will be updated as and when appropriate.

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Updated Guidelines to the Standards for Recording Human Remains

In 2017, an updated version of the Guidelines to the Standards for Recording Human Remains was edited by Piers D Mitchell and Megan Brickley, based on an earlier version from 2004.

A much longer extended document, along with a full bibliography and more images, for Chapter 11 “Guidance on recording palaeopathology (abnormal variation)” by Dr Charlotte Roberts is available here or can be sent as a PDF by contacting Dr Roberts at

Last updated: 2019

BABAO Codes of Ethics and Practice

BABAO worked hard to update a Code of Ethics and a Code of Practice in 2019, based on earlier editions prepared in 2010. These present general guidelines for ethical practice in relation to the handling, storage and analysis of human remains from archaeological sites. The code of ethics is based upon the following principles:

  • The generation of knowledge about past human lifeways using archaeological data is a worthy goal. Human remains are our most direct source of evidence in this respect. Their study is therefore central to our understanding of the human past
  • By virtue of their status as the remains of once living people, treatment of human remains requires ethical considerations over and above those that pertain to other classes of archaeological materials.
  • Human remains should always be treated with dignity and respect regardless of age or provenance.
  • Given the importance of human remains as a source of information about our past, osteoarchaeologists should work toward the long-term conservation of the osteoarchaeological record.
  • Osteoarchaeologists should be committed to public education and promote the value of the scientific study of ancient human remains.

Last updated: 2019

BABAO Advice and guidance about accessing collections of human remains in the UK

This document focuses on skeletal collections held by museums and archives in the United Kingdom (UK). In addition, where collections are held by universities or other responsible bodies (e.g. commercial field units) this document will be relevant.

Last updated: 2015

BABAO Guidance Document on Digital Imaging

BABAO recognises the ethical issues surrounding 2D and 3D digital imaging of human remains. In 2019, a new Guidance Document on Digital Imaging was developed with recommendations for best practice.

Last updated: 2019

BABAO Photographing human remains infographic

Short infographic summarising BABAO’s Guidance Document on Digital Imaging when taking and storing photographs of human remains on personal devices.

Last updated: 2023

BABAO Statements

Other links

Below are links to current standards, guidelines and legislation relating to the excavation, recording and treatment of human remains from archaeological sites and other contexts.

Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (APABE)

Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS)

Human Tissue Authority (HTA)

UK Government

The Alliance to Countering Crime Online (ACCO)