Did you know it's legal to own human bones in New York?

A member of a mom's of the Hudson Valley Facebook group posted that she was pretty shocked she learned you can buy and sell human bones in New York.

"We're big Halloween people nad my husband came across HUMAN BONES on etsy," the woman wrote. "So we started googling and it's legal to own/buy/sell human bones. It is legal except for owning any and all Native American bones. You can buy at auction. The majority are unclaimed bones from the coroner's office."

Hudson Valley Post did some research and it appears you can legally own human bones in New York, except Native American bones.

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, wrote the following for The Atlantic on owning, buying or selling bones:

In the United States, no federal law prevents owning, buying, or selling human remains, unless the remains are Native American. Otherwise, whether you’re able to sell or own human remains is decided by each individual state. At least 38 states have laws that should prevent the sale of human remains, but in reality the laws are vague, confusing, and enforced at random.

However, Doughty adds "it is near impossible to get legal permission to display a relative’s skeleton."

Strange Biology also looked into it and after interviewing many professionals wrote there is no law in New York against owning human bones, besides Native American bones.

Strange Biology spoke with the following:

  • Two owners of Skulls Unlimited
  • Two stars of the TV show Obscura, following an oddity shop in New York City (one of whom said he even consulted an attorney, who couldn’t find anything either)
  • An owner of The Bone Room
  • A lawyer in New York State
  • Two academics who focus on the academic use of human remains
  • Entire communities of human collectors, bone collectors and oddity collectors on Facebook
  • Tanya Marsh the author of Human Remains Law

"Not one of these people could actually reference any law restricting non-native bone trade within NY state! There are plenty of vendors who sell human parts in NYC, including Evolution, Maxilla and Mandible, Obscura Antiques, and there are flea markets at the Morbid Anatomy Museum. Most of these people are very public about their business, and I don’t imagine that they all source exclusively in-state," Strange Biology states.

The Bone Room, a website that sells human bones and mores says it can ship "real human bones" to New York.

"In short, it is perfectly legal to possess and sell human bones in the United States. There are a few exceptions to this: a few states have banned import and export, and of course, archaeological resources protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act," The Bone Room writes on its website.

The only states The Bone Room can't ship to are Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisiana, according to The Bone Room.

Odd Articulations, which is a custom skeletal articulations business, wrote a New York shop did get in trouble for selling human skulls.

"However, there is no written legislation in either of those states specifically prohibiting selling human BONES," Odd Articulations states.


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