The Ethics of Collaboration: Archaeologists and the Whydah Project

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The Ethics of Collaboration: Archaeologists and the Whydah Project

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Historical Archaeology


Elia, Ricardo J.

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Abstract: The ethical dimensions of archaeological collaboration with treasure hunters are explored through a study of the Whydah salvage project. The Whydah, a pirate ship that sank off Cape Cod in 1717, has been the object of commercial salvage since 1982, which has resulted in intense ethical and legal controversy among treasure hunters, archaeologists, and public officials. The article describes the history of archaeological involvement in the salvage project and discusses the issue of collaboration from the perspective of the archaeologists who work for the treasure hunters and those in public agencies who regulate them. The ethical problems of archaeological collaboration are discussed in light of ethical standards of modern archaeology. The effects of archaeological collaboration in the Whydah project are assessed and the growing acceptance of commercial salvors in the management of underwater cultural resources is demonstrated with reference to recent projects in Boston Harbor.

Additional tags: salvage archaeology; underwater archaeology; treasure hunters; collaboration


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