December 8, 2013

The Dec. 3 front-page article “In Va., a final rest interrupted” illustrated an often-repeated mistake in the world of historical archaeology. The involvement of stakeholders and the wide dissemination of information are often at odds with security and academic, bureaucratic and contract timelines. Whenever human remains are encountered, however, it is likely that someone will take umbrage.

The best way to avoid the worst possible scenario (which can include lawsuits and a hostile community) is to embrace at the start of a project the complexity and inherent difficulties of working with the public.

Some in the archaeological world see community involvement as a negative — public interference in a specialized, private world — and fight it. I am not familiar with the details of the specific project in the article, but it seems sadly representative of a lesson that archaeologists seem unwilling to learn.

Joshua Stewart, Beltsville

The article about moving century-old graves linked by some to the Lynn family revealed controversy over whether it is respectful and necessary to build a new sports field where people have been buried. Here’s an idea that might help resolve the conflict: Name the field after the Lynns.

This would seem a considerate and touching way to honor their original resting place that can satisfy both sides of the conflict.

Elizabeth Bernstein, Alexandria