Ethics and the Archaeology of Human Remains

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Ethics and the Archaeology of Human Remains

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The Journal of Irish Archaeology


O'Sullivan, Jerry

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Abstract: This paper was developed in the course of a study on all aspects of Human Remains in Irish Archaeology, conducted for the Heritage Council by Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division in 1999/2000. It begins by exploring potential sources for an ethical code in the archaeology of human remains. Public and professional opinions, gathered by survey questionnaires and interviews, are also considered. The survey reveals widespread public support for the archaeological investigation of ancient and historic human remains, but also a widespread desire that these should be reburied and not curated in museums. Some fundamental ethical principles are proposed as a basis for decision-making on this and other questions. The broad implications of these principles for Irish Archaeology are explored. Finally, a series of appendices gives transcripts, extracts or summaries of several existing codes of ethics developed by various organisations or individuals in Britain and the USA.

Additional tags: Irish archaeology; ethical treatment of human remains; reburial; museum ethics; archaeological societies; ethical codes


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