Cultures at Risk: Human Rights and Heritage Today

Bibliographic Information

Course Title

Cultures at Risk: Human Rights and Heritage Today


B. Sunday Eiselt

Institution Where Taught

Southern Methodist University

Semester or Date Taught

Fall 2016

Web Address (URL)

Additional Information

Course Number

ANTH 2380

Course Level

Course Description

Archaeology is generally associated with the study of the past, but more and more, it serves a modern world. Archaeologists are frequely involved in genocide and natural disaster recovery efforts, and they work with law enforcement in high-profile trafficking crimes. They assist local communities in sustainable living projects, and they advise governments and stakeholders on a wide variety of environmental concerns. They are occasionally called upon to assist in the planning of wars, and they are essential to the development of national narratives under dictatorial and democratic regimes. In the context of a world recession, archaeology generates billions of tourism dollars each year even as priceless heritage sites crumble under the lack of government funds. In this global and multi-cultural world, archaeologists must consider the implications of their practice for living people and wrestle with the many political dimensions of their work. We will explore some of these ethical dilemmas with a focus on specific case studies, and will utilize an “Ethics Bowl” format to examine the dilemmas of heritage preservation, looting, and human rights.

Syllabus Available



A PDF version of this syllabus is available through the Society for American Archaeology's webpage for "Syllabi: Ethics and Archaeology" at Please contact instructor for further information.


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