Ethical Issues in Archaeology

Bibliographic Information

Course Title

Ethical Issues in Archaeology


Bardolph, Dana

Institution Where Taught

Cornell University

Year Course Taught


Semester or Date Taught


Web Address (URL)

Additional Information

Course Number

ANTHR / ARKEO 4045 / 7045

Course Description

What are the ethical and legal dimensions of archaeological research? Who should control archaeological sites and other historically significant places and things? What damage is being done to the archaeological record by looting and the black market sale of artifacts? To whom and to what are archaeologists accountable? This seminar addresses these issues and more by examining how the past is employed for social, political, and economic purposes. Recognizing that archaeology is an inherently political activity, we will examine and actively debate some of the major ethical issues that confront practitioners navigating the complex responsibilities, roles, and praxis associated with archaeology. We will consider the multiple stakeholders in the archaeological endeavor—students, professional colleagues, public land managers, avocationalists, collectors, members of local communities, members of descendant communities, and so forth. Topics to be addressed include professional codes of archaeological ethics; equity issues in archaeology; approaches to cultural resource and heritage management; looting and the antiquities trade; museum politics; and collaboration and community engagement, among others. This course will involve active debate of ethical issues in archaeology, including case studies for the 2018 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Ethics Bowl.

Syllabus Available



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