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Geoffrey Scarre

Published On


Page Range

pp. 117-127

Print Length

10 pages

7. The Ethics of Digging

  • Geoffrey Scarre (author)
How should archaeologists select their research material, and should they make their choices on the basis of academic considerations alone? Whose interests should archaeological research be serving (the profession’s? those of local ethnic or indigenous groups? those of the general public? the good of mankind?), and how should these be prioritised? What permissions (and whose) do archaeologists need to obtain if their digging is to be ethical? Is excavation which permanently damages or changes a site ethically acceptable? Should archaeologists, in Lockean vein, take care to leave ‘as much and as good’ material for later researchers, and avoid depleting the archaeological resource? What duties do archaeologists have following excavation in regard to recording, publication, dissemination and display? Is archaeological digging ethically consistent with the principle of stewardship to which most archaeologists pay lip-service? Would stewardship, strictly construed, imply a ‘hands-off’ approach to the archaeological resource, and permit excavation only in the case of endangered sites? What special ethical responsibilities do archaeological researchers have in regard to human remains and grave-sites?


Geoffrey Scarre