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glossary of terms relating to burials and heritage

NSW Heritage Office, Skeletal Remains 1998

Aboriginal remains (under the National Parks and Wildlife Act) means the body or the remains of the body of a deceased Aboriginal, but does not include:

  1. a body or the remains of a body buried in a cemetery in which non-Aboriginals are also buried, or
  2. a body or the remains of a body dealt with or to be dealt with in accordance with a law of the State relating to medical treatment or the examination, for forensic or other purposes, of the bodies of deceased persons.

Australia ICOMOS is a non-government organisation comprised of heritage professionals. It promotes good practice in caring for culturally important places.

burial and grave The grave is the hole in the ground dug for the body or coffin, and includes the soil used to fill the hole. The burial is the body or coffin placed in the grave.

burial artefacts These are the non-human remains buried in a grave, and include the remains of the coffin, shroud or clothes, name plate, as well as rings, rosary heads, books, or other objects buried with the dead.

burial markers These are surface artefacts which indicate burials, for example headstones, footstones and grave surrounds.

burial ground is an area of land, possibly no longer identifiable from surface evidence, once set aside for the disposal of human remains by burial.

Burra Charter and Guidelines Charter adopted by Australia ICOMOS which established the nationally accepted standard for the conservation of places of heritage significance.

cemetery The definition is the same as for 'burial ground' above.

churchyard A burial ground adjacent to a church. Usually denominational.

conservation All the processes of looking after a place so as to retain its heritage significance. It includes maintenance and may, according to circumstances, include preservation, restoration, reconstruction and adaptation and will be commonly a combination of more than one of these.

curation refers to the care of the physical condition of an object e.g. packaging, conservation, storage in appropriate surroundings.

excavation refers to the removal of relics and/or human remains involving the use of archaeological techniques and recording methods and completed by professional archaeologists. In the context of these guidelines 'excavation' involves use of the NSW Heritage Act and will require the issue of an Excavation Permit.

exhumation refers to the removal of human remains from a burial place or vault for immediate transfer to another location, either a new grave site or a vault. This is usually carried out by professionals such as funeral directors and cemetery staff. In the context of these guidelines 'exhumation' involves use of the NSW Public Health Act and will require compliance with the provisions of that Act. The Coroner may also issue a warrant for exhumation.

forensic means pertaining to the law. Hence forensic anthropology is that branch of science which uses anthropological knowledge to solve a legal problem. Skeletal remains may be described as 'forensic' rather than archaeological if they are recent and if they are involved in a legal matter e.g. where the cause of death may be suspicious

Heritage Council is a body of fourteen members which represent various organisations and have a range of skills. The Council meets monthly to consider heritage issues and to advise the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning.

Heritage Office is the state government agency which provides support for the Heritage Council and undertakes the day-to-day administration and management of heritage issue.

human remains refers to bones, teeth, skin, muscle, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, organs, hair and nails. Cremated remains, embalmed remains, and mummified remains are also human remains. See also Aboriginal remains.

post-contact refers to the time after the first contact between Aborigines and Europeans, i.e. any time after 1770.

pre-contact is the time before European contact in NSW, i.e. before 1770.

proponent refers to the person or organization who puts forward a proposal.

relic (under the National Parks and Wildlife Act) means any deposit, object or material evidence not being a handicraft made for sale) relating to indigenous and non-European habitation of the area that comprises New South Wales, being habitation both prior to and concurrent with the occupation of that area by persons of European extraction, and includes Aboriginal remains.

relic (under the Heritage Act) means any deposit, object or material evidence:-

  1. which relates to the settlement of the area that comprises New South Wales, not being Aboriginal settlement; and
  2. which is 50 or more years old.  

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