I recently found myself with some dispensable income, so I did what any responsible adult would do: get a new tattoo.

Now, my tattoo artist has some pretty eclectic decorations in his studio, including a human skull and hand. It's not the first time I've seen them, but it was the first time I wondered:

"Is that even legal to own?" I asked.

My artist seemed to think so. He was under the impression that you could own human bones as long as they were marked with a number to denote medical and/or educational use.

Was this true? I decided to do a little digging... (no pun intended.)



The short answer is, yes, you can legally possess human bones in the state of New York, and most of the United States. Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana have explicit laws against importing bones, so you can't ship any there. And if you're getting bones shipped from another country, you may face issues from U.S. customs, depending on where they're coming from.

But the biggest no-no across all 50 states is the possession or sale of Native American bones. These are protected under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Earlier this month, Cornell University returned the 300-year-old remains of a young Native American male from its archives to the Oneida Indian Nation. The remains had been turned over to Cornell's anthropology department back in the 1960s after they were discovered during a ditch digging project. (You can read more about that here.)


So what's the going rate for human bones? Well, they're pricey. (Thanks, inflation!) According to the website The Bone Room, the average skull is going to run you $2,000 or more. That's just the skull!


For those prices, you can keep that skeleton in your closet, thank you very much.

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