Burke and Ha…aaang on a minute!

Right. I was going to write about life tables this week*. But then this happened. Yeah, that’s right! Headline: “Shallow grave bones linked to Burke and Hare.”

[Cue Osteologist Me]

ExcitedAmyThe article opens: “Bodies found buried in a shallow grave behind an upmarket townhouse are believed to be among the final victims of the callous body snatchers made infamous by Burke and Hare.”



Oh wait…

Wait a minute…

I’m just re-reading that bit.

You know the bit further down where it says: “We can’t rule out that those [the remains] found on Grove Street were sold by the resurrectionists, as they were called, although it might be a stretch to say it was Burke and Hare themselves, given their crimes are well-documented.” Emphasis mine.




Nope nope nope.

NerdRage470I have been wracking my brain for the past few days, trying to figure out exactly how the journalist (or editor) came up with a headline and byline that states pretty much the exact opposite of what is quoted in the article.

SherlockThinking470Oh wait, I know.

Lazy flibberdegibbety click-baiting.

I’ve written about this before.

I meant it folks.

Quit it.

SlapTyrionWhile the discovery of human remains formerly used as medical specimens isn’t that unusual (indeed, there was an entire exhibit about it recently) it is obviously still super fascinating.

Headlines like this cheapen an incredible chance discovery by making claims for it that the researchers have not (in fact, they essentially ruled out those claims IN THE ARTICLE INTERVIEW).

It needs to stop.

It’s ruining everything.

CryingJess470I mean, isn’t it just as interesting that the role of the resurrectionists was so wide-spread? That it went so far beyond the infamous resurrectionists turned murderers Burke and Hare? And supposing they weren’t the victims of resurrectionists either! Isn’t the history of human remains as medical specimens in itself fascinating? And in this particular case that they should end up buried in a back garden? Or rather, that pieces of them were buried in a back garden?!

EdwardYes470Right, so let’s talk about that then!

Change yer damned headline.

“Shallow grave bones may have resurrectionist link.”†

And while you’re at it, how about the byline too?‡

Sixty bones, representing four adults and one child, discovered in townhouse backgarden – believed to be 19th century medical specimens, with possible links to ressurectionists.

Ooh… now doesn’t that sound interesting?




*Sorry to disappoint! Now you’ll have to wait for that brilliant post.

†Since I started writing this post there have been a few other iterations of this story (see below) that do, in fact, use a headline more similar to mine.



Headlines from January 7th, 2013.

‡ Added in update January 8th, 2013.

4 responses to “Burke and Ha…aaang on a minute!

  1. I actually think this is why bioarchaeology blogging is so important- we need scholars who are actively trying to get the facts out there and are willing to take the time to break down the real scholarship for the public! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the comment Katy. I appreciate your taking the time. I certainly think there is more room on the internet for providing an alternate perspective on archaeological news to the established media (read: the more bloggers the merrier).

      While the last few of my posts haven’t perhaps been academically rigorous, I do hope that they are contributing to the discussions that people are having about the representation of our research in the wider world.

  2. Pingback: Avoid Killer Gerbil Headlines Like A Cliche… | Deathsplanation·

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