Human remains ranging from ancient skulls to books bound with human skin are reportedly sold on social media. An investigation unearthed many private Facebook groups trading the forbidden goods. Selling of human remains on social media is illegal, yet these groups keep popping up. After the findings were reported, some of the pages were taken down. Facebook is not the only platform on which the grisly items are sold.

A reporter from Live Science kept track of various private groups on Facebook and the items being sold there. They saw human body parts ranging from whole skeletons to skulls of teenagers being sold at various prices. The source of most of the items remained murky. However, the buyers did not seem to be bothered about the source of the bodies or body parts.

Some sellers claim that the items being sold were donated to medical schools or museums. However, some sellers brazenly revealed the illegal manner in which the items were obtained. The reporter gave the example of a skull from the Sousse catacomb in Tunisia, which was smuggled out during restoration work. Similarly, elongated skulls from Peru which were sold for $10,500 (£8,425) could not have been obtained legally.

The reporter found out that the remains of children, as well as foetuses, were extremely popular. They found the mummified body of a child being sold for 11,000 euros (£9,923). The seller claimed that the body was of a 6-year-old from the 1700s. However they did not specify how they obtained it.

Foetuses sold ranged from barely developed ones with soft tissues to fully developed ones. The seller of a fully developed foetus claimed that the mother wanted the body to "live on via preservation."

Buyers shared pictures of their collections in the groups as well. Full skeletons were pictured seated, and some skulls were used as vases. Other weird items being sold included a cane and a knife which incorporated human femurs. A book bound in human skin was also sold. The seller claimed that the skin came from a retired medical specimen.

Ryan Seidemann and Christine Halling from the Office of Louisiana's Attorney General in the Lands & Natural Resources Section Civil Division condemned the sale of human remains. They pointed out that irrespective of the source, no deceased individual can hope to have their bodies used as curios and collectors' items.

Responding to the investigation, a Facebook spokesperson stated that when the groups and pages are reported they are immediately taken down. It was observed that three of the reported groups had been taken down by Friday, July 3. eBay strictly regulates sales to ensure that human remains and items made from them are not sold. Some sellers used Instagram. However, many of the pages were taken down recently as well.

A skull is pictured inside the catacomb of Priscilla, an ancient underground burial places under Rome. (Photo: REUTERS/Max Rossi)
Human remains and items made from human body parts are sold online illegally. (representational image)