Interrogating archaeological ethics in conflict zones: cultural heritage work in Cyprus

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Interrogating archaeological ethics in conflict zones: cultural heritage work in Cyprus


Hardy, Samuel Andrews

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University of Sussex

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Doctoral Thesis


Abstract: Much affected by viewing the Yugoslav Wars’ ruins, I resolved to study archaeology in conflict. I wanted to explore archaeology’s role in conflict and archaeologists’ responsibilities in conflict zones; but unable to conduct such work in Kosova/Kosovo, I went to Cyprus. Drawing together professional documentation and public education, professional and community interactions and interviews, and cultural heritage site visits, I researched the destruction of community places, the looting of cultural heritage, and the coping strategies of archaeologists. The key questions of this thesis are: is it legal and ethical to conduct archaeological work in occupied and secessionist territories? How is public knowledge of cultural heritage looting and destruction constructed? What are cultural heritage professionals’ responsibilities for knowledge production during conflict? How ought cultural heritage professionals to combat the looting and illicit trading of antiquities? I have addressed these questions by concentrating upon cultural heritage workers’ narratives of looting and destruction from 1955 until the present in professional discussion and mass education. First, I argue that archaeologists have misinterpreted international law, and through boycotting and blacklisting of rescue archaeology in northern Cyprus, harmed both the profession and the cultural heritage. Second, I argue that cultural heritage workers have been unwillingly coopted, or actively complicit in the conflict, in the production of nationalist histories, and thus nationalist communities, therefore in the reproduction of nationalist conflict. Third, I argue that cultural heritage workers have knowingly contributed to the conflict and its destruction, through their nationalist policies on the paramilitary-dominated illicit antiquities trade. My conclusions are: that an ethical antiquities policy would cut funding to and thereby reduce conflict-fuelling extremist activity; and that, where they have the freedom to practice it, professional and ethical archaeologies of destruction would promote intracommunal and intercommunal peace.

Additional tags: conflict archaeology; archaeological responsibility; destruction of heritage sites

Open access on Sussex Research Online.


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