Currently I’m in group assembled by the union DIK (the union for archaeologist, librarians, archivists etc.) discussing ethical guidelines for Archaeology inSweden. We’re only just started so we’re trying to get feel for the subject and finding the framework, through our own experience and through works by other organizations such as AAA, EAA and the Swedish Archaeological Society(Svenska arkeologiska samfundet) among others.
While going through these guidelines and codes I found that they do have lots of substance and important statements, though when we disscused this we felt that we like to do this in a somewhat other fashion – not just copy and paste but actually saying something of our own. It’s also possible that we have a somewhat different starting point and somewhat other aims as these are guidelines rather than codes, but as I say we’re just starting up – so we might change our perspectives several times. One thing that came up is the importance of setting humanity in the centre of the discussion.
Ethics is a big word, it covers a lot of grounds, and we must in some way concentrate the subject, focus it on certain areas and to make it workable and presentable. We’ve been looking into grouping this into certain fields or headlines, for example;
- Re-search and studies,
- contract-archaeology (both from the filed point of view and from the departmental view),
- the public
- and economics.
As contract-archaeology is getting more and more a business as many others, it still differs tom most as the main goal for most archaeologist isn’t to make a monetary profit but rather a scientific profit (not said that archaeological business, museums, institutions etc isn’t or shouldn’t be looking out for the future by making sure they make enough money). Though this has been a reality for some time, there are several ethical issues connected to this, for all parts involved.
Other issues concerns practices, sharing of knowledge, contacts with the public etc and politics.
In the latter part is a big issue that needs to be addressed, how do we avoid to be used as a political tool of groups, parties or associations – or should we avoid it? Archaeology or rather the cultural environment is part of the political landscape and should so be, but when groups try to control a certain remain or type of remains, ideas or interpretations it begins to be difficult. In most cases this does not go to the extreme, but then again sometime it does – Historian, archaeologist and author Magnus Alkarp and his family was recently threatened by neo-nazis due to Alkarps new play 4 dagar i april (4 days in April). The story is based on a true story about the riots that shookUppsala 1943 when nazis gathered atUppsala mounds (burial mounds from the Iron Age) for a demonstration. I haven’t seen the play, yet, but has great admiration for Magnus Alkarps work, courage and engagement – Keep up the good work!
These threats shows how important it is, and often difficult, to deal with groups that have other interests in archaeology and prehistory than the scientific ones. I feel it is important that we as an archaeological community works actively with question concerning how our results are being used or misused and that we are active and supportive towards each other in this.
With this said as a sketchy background we’re looking for current articles or posting on the matter, international and or national on ethics, big scale or small, to use as reference points or inspiration.