Is owning a human skull legal?

As strange as it may seem, it is completely legal for you to own human bones in 49 of the 50 US states as long as they were obtained legally.

The biggest question I get is "Where/How Do You Get a Human Skull?"


Most of the ones I used to receive were from retired Dentists (It used to be mandatory to have a real skull to use in dental school) or are retired college teaching specimens. Many that I got had stamps from the medical companies that prepared them, and some had writing such as “Anatomy Dept.” or something similar on them. As long as they were obtained legally, they’re completely legal to own and sell, with a few exceptions:

There are 3 states that have restrictive laws regarding human remains:

Louisiana: Owning human remains (with exceptions to teeth, fingernails, gall stones, or cremated remains) is completely prohibited. This means you can not own ANY human bones if you live in Louisiana.

Georgia: In Georgia you can own human remains within the state, but you cannot import/export, or buy/sell any parts in or out of the state, including human teeth. This means if you live in Georgia and want to own a human skull you must be gifted one within your state, and it cannot ever be sold or leave the state. This is updated as of 2023- you will find older regulations that claim you can buy/sell within the state like you can in Tennessee- that is not correct as of 2023.

Tennessee: In Tennessee you can own, buy, sell, and trade human remains within the state, but you cannot import or export any parts in or out of the state. This means if you live in Tennessee and want to buy a human skull, you will have to find one for sale within your state, and if you ever move out of the state, you legally cannot take the skull with you.

Two Iffy States:

There have been two other states (New York and Virginia) where 2 separate shops have gotten in trouble for selling human skulls. However, there is no written legislation in either of those states specifically prohibiting selling human BONES. The laws were twisted to include skulls in the laws that prevent the selling of viable human tissue in those two separate cases.

What IS Illegal

It should go without saying, but skulls, bones, or other remains that were obtained illegally are ILLEGAL to possess. This includes:

  1. Grave Robbing! You can’t go digging up grandma because you need some spare cash. This also includes FINDING human bones in or near cemeteries. If you do find bones near a cemetery, simply leave them where you find them, or re-bury them somewhere close.
  2. Murder! If grandma doesn’t bake you cookies, you can’t take her out back and pow pow and keep her skull as a trophy. This also includes most war trophy skulls. Most countries are requiring war trophies to be returned to their homeland to be buried where they belong.
  3. Native Americans! You cannot own any remains from a Native American. Find a human finger bone near a riverbed that once had natives living near it? Best to leave it. Tilling a field and find a bunch of bones that appear human? Probably a Native American burial site. Stop digging and alert authorities.
  4. Nature-found human bones! Walking through the woods and find a human skull sticking out of the ground? You can’t take it home and clean it up. Bought a new house and find a skeleton in your crawl space? Call authorities immediately. It might’ve been a lost murder victim, someone who got lost in the woods, or a number of other things. It’s best to alert authorities and see if it may help solve a mystery.
  5. Viable Tissue! If you chop off your toe, you cannot legally sell it until you preserve it. No raw human tissue can be bought or sold. This mostly applies to organs or whole body parts (as far as I know, skin is not included, and neither is mummified tissue). This prevents people from drugging you and stealing your kidneys while you wake up in a bathtub.

Where Can I Buy One?

I used to sell them, but for personal reasons decided to no longer partake in human osteology sales as of 2022. Most of the skulls I sold were between $750-1300, but the prices skyrocketed since 2020, with many sellers now having them listed for $2000+. You used to be able to see and read about nearly all of the skulls I’ve had by clicking here, which will take you to the hashtag on my Instagram that I used to post them on. It was very cool to see them all beside each other and to be able to compare them, but that got ruined when VICE wrote an article about me. You can read about that article here. If you don’t have a fancy display case for your skulls and want to keep them protected and dust-free, I’d advise buying a Glass Cloche. There are various sizes available, and they can make an excellent way to display your skulls.

Do They Come with Paperwork?

No, no paperwork exists or is needed to own a human skull. Any “paperwork” that comes with a human skull is fake. No need for any kind of permits, a letter of authenticity, or paperwork of any other sort to own a human skull or other bones. Just follow the laws above and you’ll be fine. It’s weird that it’s legal to own a human skull- I agree. Should it be legal? Is it ethical? That’s up to you to decide for yourself.

I know you probably just stumbled upon this page while trying to prove a friend wrong or to fact check that thread on Reddit, but feel free to check out my work here! I basically build dinosaur skeletons for a living…. but not dinosaurs. I don’t ask for/accept donations for writing these articles, but feel free to grab something small from my Shop or follow me on my social media (InstagramFacebook, or Tumblr) if you’d like to support my work and see what I’m working on!

real human skull
Very very old dissected human skull showing the teeth roots. This skull had some very interesting religious text written on its forehead... oh the stories that these skulls could tell if they were still alive.

If you noticed any typos while reading this, any links don’t work, or have any suggestions or questions that weren’t covered in this article or the other articles on my Blog, please leave a comment below or Contact Me.

3 Responses to “Is owning a human skull legal?

  • Quick translation for the English readers: “a company in NY claimed they did encounter problems when trying to sell human skulls”

    There are laws in place for most states that prohibits the sell of viable tissue (so you can’t sell kidneys on the black market..), but those laws can be twisted to include dry bones even though it’s not viable tissue. Grey area

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