Religious sites embody the relationship of a people to the land and to the past. Mountains are marked as places of special pilgrimage; rivers and bridges become holy; a building or a tree, or rock or stone, may take on the power through which people can connect themselves to their own past. Such sites tend to be bulldozed, developed, or changed, for political and economic reasons, without regard for the emotional continuity of traditional societies. Destruction of sites which have become part of the communal consciousness creates a pathological condition in the communal body.
Burial sites are also desecrated by anthropologists and archaeologists in search of information. Indigenous populations whose beliefs attach special importance to ancestral remains are subject to the indignity of attempting to recover such remains from the museums to which they have been transferred. A wave of new-paganism in Europe has led to renewed mass interest in monuments like Stonehenge, UK. Archaeologists are as concerned about the damage caused to the site by barriers to keep people at a distance as they are by the sheer number of visitors themselves.
Israeli officials are concerned that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem will be the stage for violent encounters between religious zealots. A simple symbolic act of desecration, or even perceived desecration, of any of the holy sites on the Temple Mount is likely to trigger a violent reaction.
Failure to recognize sacred landscapes has blinded outsiders to the management practices of indigenous peoples and traditional local communities.
Such concerns lead to the absurdity of the mass reburial of American Indian remains of a museum collection of skeletons. It implies that Tasmanian skeletons should be repatriated for reburial by their descendants, although Tasmanian aborigines have been exterminated. Although such skeletons have been thoroughly studied, new techniques tend to emerge which permit them to be restudied for more information, especially about genetic evolution.