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 receive are 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 get have stamps from the medical companies that prepared them, and some have 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 and Tennessee: In these states 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 Georgia or 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 get them in every now and then, but they’re becoming harder and harder to find in good condition. When I get one in, I usually list it for sale on my Instagram and Facebook pages first, and then if it doesn’t sell I’ll list it here on my website. Most if not all of them are already sold, but you can still click on the listings to read about the interesting pathology or stories that came with them, as well as see the going prices for the varying qualities. Most of the skulls I sell are between $750-1300. 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.

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