Forum: Ethical Issues in European Professional Archaeology

Bibliographic Information

Article Title

Forum: Ethical Issues in European Professional Archaeology

Journal Title

Public Archaeology

Author(s)

Aitchinson, Kenneth

Month of Publication

July

Year of Publication

2013

Volume Number

6

Issue Number

2

Article Pages

116-123

Web Address (URL)

https://doi.org/10.1179/175355307X230757

Notes

Ethical Issues in European Professional Archaeology
Kenneth Aitchison
Introduction
It is entirely appropriate that for the one discipline with the widest of scopes – the study of all the
physical traces left by humanity in all of its prior existence – that there are a multiplicity of
understandings of what archaeologists are and what they do.
And with archaeologists holding differing understandings of what constitutes archaeological practice,
levels of (mis)understanding can easily arise about how archaeologists carry out their work, why and for
whose benefit. Confusion develops about what is right and what is wrong, what is “ethical” and what is
not, and the consequences of such misunderstandings can be conflict or exploitation.
Professional archaeological practice has evolved in different ways in different parts of the world, and the
dominant ethical issues vary too. In a round table session held at the European Association of
Archaeologists’ 2006 Annual Meeting in Krakow - “How should we conduct ourselves? Dilemmas in
archaeological ethics and professional conduct”, organised by Jeffrey Altschul of the Register of
Professional Archaeologists – participants explored the ethical issues that they felt impacted upon
archaeological practice in the differing global contexts of their workplaces.
The issues raised by North American participants were dominated by the ethical questions raised
through interaction with, and the perceived exploitation of, past indigenous cultures and/or descendant
communities, or by the exploitation of the pasts of other countries. In many cases, these issues are tied
very strongly to the removal of portable antiquities. By contrast, the experiences of the European
participants identified ethical questions that were about business, financial advantage and relationships
between archaeologists and their commercial clients.
This paper will explore the development of these issues of ethics and the professionalisation of
archaeology, in their European and global contexts.Ethical Issues in European Professional Archaeology
Kenneth Aitchison
Introduction
It is entirely appropriate that for the one discipline with the widest of scopes – the study of all the
physical traces left by humanity in all of its prior existence – that there are a multiplicity of
understandings of what archaeologists are and what they do.
And with archaeologists holding differing understandings of what constitutes archaeological practice,
levels of (mis)understanding can easily arise about how archaeologists carry out their work, why and for
whose benefit. Confusion develops about what is right and what is wrong, what is “ethical” and what is
not, and the consequences of such misunderstandings can be conflict or exploitation.
Professional archaeological practice has evolved in different ways in different parts of the world, and the
dominant ethical issues vary too. In a round table session held at the European Association of
Archaeologists’ 2006 Annual Meeting in Krakow - “How should we conduct ourselves? Dilemmas in
archaeological ethics and professional conduct”, organised by Jeffrey Altschul of the Register of
Professional Archaeologists – participants explored the ethical issues that they felt impacted upon
archaeological practice in the differing global contexts of their workplaces.
The issues raised by North American participants were dominated by the ethical questions raised
through interaction with, and the perceived exploitation of, past indigenous cultures and/or descendant
communities, or by the exploitation of the pasts of other countries. In many cases, these issues are tied
very strongly to the removal of portable antiquities. By contrast, the experiences of the European
participants identified ethical questions that were about business, financial advantage and relationships
between archaeologists and their commercial clients.
This paper will explore the development of these issues of ethics and the professionalisation of
archaeology, in their European and global contexts.Ethical Issues in European Professional Archaeology
Kenneth Aitchison
Introduction
It is entirely appropriate that for the one discipline with the widest of scopes – the study of all the
physical traces left by humanity in all of its prior existence – that there are a multiplicity of
understandings of what archaeologists are and what they do.
And with archaeologists holding differing understandings of what constitutes archaeological practice,
levels of (mis)understanding can easily arise about how archaeologists carry out their work, why and for
whose benefit. Confusion develops about what is right and what is wrong, what is “ethical” and what is
not, and the consequences of such misunderstandings can be conflict or exploitation.
Professional archaeological practice has evolved in different ways in different parts of the world, and the
dominant ethical issues vary too. In a round table session held at the European Association of
Archaeologists’ 2006 Annual Meeting in Krakow - “How should we conduct ourselves? Dilemmas in
archaeological ethics and professional conduct”, organised by Jeffrey Altschul of the Register of
Professional Archaeologists – participants explored the ethical issues that they felt impacted upon
archaeological practice in the differing global contexts of their workplaces.
The issues raised by North American participants were dominated by the ethical questions raised
through interaction with, and the perceived exploitation of, past indigenous cultures and/or descendant
communities, or by the exploitation of the pasts of other countries. In many cases, these issues are tied
very strongly to the removal of portable antiquities. By contrast, the experiences of the European
participants identified ethical questions that were about business, financial advantage and relationships
between archaeologists and their commercial clients.
This paper will explore the development of these issues of ethics and the professionalisation of
archaeology, in their European and global contexts.

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