John D. Seebach 2014-05-21 03:14:44
As many recent edited volumes suggest (Adler and Bruning 2012; Scarre and Scarre 2006; Zimmerman et al. 2003), today’s archaeologists think and read a lot about ethical practice. Yet the syllabus survey conducted by Kamp (2014) suggests that, out of the seven curriculum goals put forth by the SAA Committee on Curriculum, ethics and values do not command much attention in our classrooms. This is paradoxical and even somewhat unsettling: if we are training the next generation of professional archaeologists, why are we apparently neglecting to instruct them in the ethics and values that support our practice? The short answer, and good news, is that we aren’t so neglectful. A brief survey of the domains considered to be part of ethical practice, as codified by the SAA Ethics in Archaeology Committee (Lynott and Wylie 1995), and of the textbooks commonly used in introductory-level courses reveals that ethical considerations, to varying degrees, pervade almost all of our pedagogy. What we are guilty of is not making our ethical standards more explicit on syllabi and potentially in our lectures, which we should strive to do. Students leave our classrooms with only their syllabi, notes, and memories, and if we are not more open about the ethical stances we take as individuals and as a profession, we run the risk of making our values seem less important than they are. This is of particular concern for those students who will not continue on in archaeology and who will be bombarded in their lives by media featuring misused or illegally gained archaeological finds. Before going further it is useful to consider what kinds of subjects and concepts fall under the broad heading of “Ethics and Values.” In the mid-1990s, the SAA Ethics in Archaeology Committee was charged with creating a set of statements codifying our values. The resulting list was debated and passed by the membership at large (Lynott 1997). These eight statements later appeared in print (Lynott 1997; Lynott and Wylie 1995) and can be found online on the SAA website (SAA 1996). Given the dual scientific and humanistic nature of our discipline, the eight principles are understandably broad. They are comprised of two statements regarding our responsibility to the past in the present and six statements that refer to professional practice (though Lynott (1997:593–594) notes that these are not meant to govern our conduct). The list begins with “Stewardship,” the primary term covering the ways professional archaeologists try to inculcate nonprofessionals (whether students or avocationals) with our deeply held belief that the material remains of the past are nonrenewable, important, and worthy of preservation in the face of rampant looting and development. Consciousness-raising is the goal: looting destroys our knowledge of the past; antiquities should not be bought and sold on the art market; and context is paramount. The second principle, “Accountability,” states that archaeologists should make good faith efforts to consult with interested stakeholders, including descendant communities, land developers, our respective municipal and state governments, and other affected entities. This issue is of obvious importance to cultural resource legislation, repatriation, and, importantly, our authority to interpret the past to communities that may or may not have a more immediate connection to the cultural properties controlled by the archaeologist (Stone 2014). The six statements about professional practice begin with “Commercialization,” stating that archaeologists should avoid “activities that enhance the commercial value of artifacts” and actively discourage the sale of antiquities. “Public Education and Outreach” asks archaeologists to recruit the public in stewardship efforts by engaging them in our work through education, whether in public lectures, print, or other media sources. Similarly, “Public Reporting and Publication” asks archaeologists to publish their work in a timely fashion and also to disseminate their research results to the lay public. Doing so is good scientific practice, as well as an acknowledgment that we work in the public trust. “Intellectual Property” reminds us that the products of our research, including field notes, maps, and other documents, are also part of the archaeological record and should be stewarded as much as the prehistoric and historic material remains we curate. “Records and Preservation” is a related notion, stating that all records of research should be preserved. As a principle, “Training and Resources” affirms that fieldwork should be undertaken only according to the highest currently accepted standards. The similarities between the eight ethical principles and the seven curriculum goals are remarkable (Table 1). No fewer than seven of the curriculum goals have clear ethical dimensions or are drawn from the principles themselves. Stewardship appears on both lists, a critical inclusion considering the rate at which archaeological sites are being lost. The curriculum goal of recognizing diverse pasts is also part of ethical behavior with regard to archaeology’s relationship to descendant communities. This is “Accountability” from the list of principles. As a discipline, we must understand and teach our students that we do not necessarily have a monopoly on the interpretation of prehistoric human cultural behaviors and that the past has power in the present. As with the extreme case of Puebloan cannibalism, descendant communities have a vested interest in what “truths” are disseminated to an interested public, and we should take great care when dealing with such incendiary claims. Indigenous knowledge and oral history is also playing a larger interpretive role today than in the past, and how archaeologists manage these competing/complementary interests is increasingly an integral part of ethics discussions in classrooms. Ethics and values also inform “Written and Oral Communication,” particularly when dealing with our responsibility to publish the results of our work in both professional and public outlets. “Teaching Fundamental Skills” ensures that field research will be conducted according to the highest standards of the discipline into the future. Articulating the social relevance of the past is also ethical to the extent that it is related to accountability and our uses of archaeological data. Real-world problem solving is the only goal that is not as immediately tied to ethical behavior, though it certainly could be if we designed problem-solving or critical thinking exercises using one of the other goals, even with something as putatively ethics-free as budget design. If ethics and values can range from excavation methodology to how we incorporate stakeholders into our analyses and interpretation, then all facets of an archaeological education consider ethics in some form. The question becomes whether or not we are making such linkages in our classrooms. Assuming that most introductory archaeology courses use textbooks, one easy way to discern the importance given to ethical topics is to see how such topics are covered in commonly used texts. For this discussion, I consulted five of the more popular introductory texts: Ashmore and Sharer’s (2010) Discovering Our Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology, Fifth Edition; Feder’s (2008) Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology, Second Edition; Kelly and Thomas’s (2013) Archaeology, Sixth Edition; Renfrew and Bahn’s (2008) Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, Fifth Edition; and Sutton’s (2013) Archaeology: The Science of the Human Past, Fourth Edition. I also considered the brief discussion of ethics by Juli in Rice and McCurdy’s (2002) Strategies in Teaching Anthropology volume. According to many syllabi, ethics are covered in only one or two class periods, which are often scheduled during the latest portion of the semester. This relegation of ethics to the end of the term is understandable, given that most course calendars are designed to match the order of chapters in the textbooks we use, and “ethics chapters” are by and large the last chapters in the books (Table 2). At first blush, this would seem ignominious for such a critical topic. Are our authors using ethics as an important “takeaway message” that caps the class as a whole, or is ethics truly one of those subjects to be squeezed in only after the much more important lessons about dating and typology have been digested? More critically, what messages about ethics are being absorbed by students who may be otherwise distracted by looming final exams and term paper deadlines? Though textbook chapters specifically devoted to ethics and values comprise the final chapters of books, subjects that are usually discussed under the rubric of ethics and values (e.g., looting) are also found elsewhere. Ashmore and Sharer (2010), for example, include a brief paragraph on professional responsibilities in Chapter 1 and Sutton discusses professional fieldwork in Chapter 5. Similarly, Feder (2008) briefly outlines some of the standard topics in his Chapter 2, though his is the only text that does not include a separate ethics chapter. Kelly and Thomas (2013) employ a unique method of addressing topic. In addition to the requisite last two chapters, chapters throughout the book also contain clearly demarcated “What Does It Mean to Me?” and “Looking Closer” subtopics that cover ethical behavior by using specific examples. For example, Chapter 10, on bioarchaeology, presents the sensitive issue of unearthing human, specifically Native American, remains (p. 230) and the morbid delight with which popular media seized on archaeological interpretations of Ancestral Puebloan cannibalism to the detriment of some American Indian communities (p. 241). The result of this approach, I find, is that students are consistently reminded of the ethical questions we face with our every discovery and interpretation. The breadth of the SAA’s ethical principles means that they cannot all be addressed in an introductory chapter-length treatment. As a result, textbooks define ethics much more narrowly, usually as the principles of “Stewardship” and “Accountability.” Two topics are discussed at length by all authors: looting and our relationship to descendant communities. For example, all consulted texts contain sections titled with some derivation of “Who Owns the Past?” Within these sections, however, are diverse topics ranging from the ownership of cultural property to questions about who has the authority to interpret archaeological materials. Specific thorny examples are objects held in museums outside their country of origin, such as the Elgin Marbles (Kelly and Thomas 2013; Renfrew and Bahn 2008), materials collected from private property (Feder 2008), and contentious access to sacred sites (Kelly and Thomas 2013). Both the Sutton (2013) and the Ashmore and Sharer (2010) texts interpret the question solely in terms of who can speak for the past and discuss the importance of working with descendant communities. The Kennewick Man debacle looms large as an example, with Sutton (2013) giving it extended treatment and Kelly and Thomas (2013) interweaving it throughout the course of the book. The New York African Burial Ground is also popular (Ashmore and Sharer 2010; Kelly and Thomas 2013). All authors agree that looting and the destruction of the archaeological record are among the most important ethical issues facing modern archaeology. Indeed, this is how Ashmore and Sharer’s (2010) entire ethics chapter is framed. The scale of looting and antiquities legislation is generally described using examples of the entry of illegally gained antiquities into the art market. The 1970 UNESCO Convention (and its non-enforceability), the market for Mimbres- Mogollon and Ancient Maya ceramics, and the looting of the Baghdad Museum during the second Iraq War are popular topics. Two textbooks (Kelly and Thomas 2013; Sutton 2013) separate and give chapter length discussions of antiquities legislation and cultural resource management. Looting’s prominence remains intact in these discussions, but CRM also allows us to alert students to development’s destructive effects on the archaeological record. Other authors simply embed CRM in their ethics chapters (e.g., Renfrew and Bahn 2008). The project described by Juli (2002) takes the issues surrounding looting and carries them through a semesterlong project. Briefly, a clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark is shown on the first day of class and the issues brought up within it (looting and the complicity of museums; the economy of looting; the importance of context; media portrayals of archaeology) are then taken up in turn, using additional readings and documentaries. The narrow definition of ethics employed by textbook authors is apropos in that the message to students is clearly that archaeological objects are cultural patrimony and that the disposition of cultural patrimony can be extremely contentious. This is an accurate and useful way to relay to students that archaeology matters— to them, to us, and to the public at large. What gets left out of this discussion, however, are the six principles covering professional behavior and how they relate to accountability and stewardship. But this doesn’t mean that these six are ignored in our classes. In practice, it is quite the opposite. The greater part of an introductory semester is dedicated to the fundaments of archaeological analysis and interpretation, as the many textbook chapters on time, space, form, excavation, survey, and so on, attest. Furthermore, by default, our use of books and bibliographies, journal articles, and other media shows students the scientific importance of publishing and disseminating research results. If we aren’t making this connection explicit, it is very easy to do so. Lessons expressing the importance of context and the fact that we can excavate a site only once are avenues we can use to speak about the ethical Importance of preserving site records and other forms of intellectual property, to say nothing of the sites themselves. As an ethical principle, “Commercialization” means that archaeologists shouldn’t appraise artifacts or facilitate such appraisals, but as a curriculum goal, this topic should be well covered under stewardship. The scale of the problem can be underscored by the 17 million Google hits one gets when searching for “artifacts for sale.” Finally, that classes in archaeology are readily available to students at almost all institutions of higher education is in itself public education and outreach, and we can begin each semester with these sentiments. In essence, as far as students are concerned, we are always modeling our ethics and values. Perhaps this curriculum goal ranks low on the sampled syllabi not because it is rarely mentioned, but because, as exemplified by the Kelly and Thomas text and the SAA principles, it is ubiquitous. Syllabi course goals and calendars may simply not reflect this ubiquity. As such, the question is not whether and how we teach ethics, but whether or not we are attempting to cast all other subjects in light of our values. Unfortunately, this is not something the syllabi survey can address, but it is something we must ask ourselves. The approach taken by Kelly and Thomas and Juli, essentially forcing students to encounter ethical decisions throughout the semester, instead of just before finals, seems to be one way to make sure that we make our values and ethical conundrums explicit. A recent survey of introductory archaeology syllabi suggests that ethics and values are being taught with less frequency than other SAA curriculum goals. In fact, we see the exact opposite when comparing the curriculum goals to SAA’s Ethical Principles and to the textbooks used in introductory courses. Our values are (hopefully) being taught and imparted at almost every turn. The perceived difference may simply be based on audience. Professionals intimately understand the moral decision-making that goes into almost every aspect of our work, to the degree that it becomes second nature. On the other hand, our textbooks and syllabi are designed to communicate to nonprofessionals, and they generally define ethics less as a part of professional practice and more as a moral issue involving patrimony and destruction of the archaeological record. One is implicit, the other made explicit. This dichotomy probably translates to the way we compose our syllabi, which may not be reflective of our day-today pedagogy. The syllabus survey and the suggestions given throughout this series of papers suggest that we should work harder to make ethical considerations explicit in all aspects of our work, particularly in introductory sections, and this is undoubtedly the case. Considering most of our students will not take another archaeology course, we may have only one chance to undermine the kinds of “research” displayed on shows such as American Diggers, Ancient Aliens, and similar programs. We need to make the most of it. References Cited Adler, Michael A., and Susan Benton Bruning (editors) 2012 The Future of Our Past: Ethical Implications of Collecting Antiquities in the Twenty-First Century. School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe. Ashmore, Wendy, and Robert J. Sharer 2010 Discovering Our Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology, Fifth Edition. McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Boston. Bender, Barbara J., and George S. Smith 2000 Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century. SAA Press, Washington, D.C. Feder, Kenneth L. 2008 Linking to the Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, New York. Juli, Harold 2002 An Introductory Unit on the Illegal Antiquities Trade: Looting and Related Ethical Issues in Archaeology. In Strategies for Teaching Anthropology, edited by Patricia C. Rice and David W. McCurdy, pp. 30–37, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Kamp, Kathryn 2014 Teaching Archaeology in the First Part of the Twenty-First Century. The SAA Archaeological Record 14(1):30–32. Kelly, Robert L., and David Hurst Thomas 2013 Archaeology. 6th ed. Wadsworth Cengage, Belmont, CA. Lynott, Mark J. 1997 Ethical Principles and Archaeological Practice: Development of an Ethics Policy. American Antiquity 62(4):589–599. Lynott, Mark J., and Alison Wylie 1995 Ethics in American Archaeology: Challenges for the 1990s. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C. Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn 2008 Archaeology: Theories, Methods, Practice. 5th ed. Thames and Hudson, New York. Rice, Patricia C., and David W. McCurdy (editors) 2002 Strategies for Teaching Anthropology. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Scarre, Christopher, and Geoffrey Scarre 2006 The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Society for American Archaeology (SAA) 1996 Principles of Archaeological Ethics. Electronic document, http://www.saa.org/AbouttheSociety/PrinciplesofArchaeologicalEthics/ tabid/203/Default.aspx, accessed April 24, 2014. Stone, Tammy 2014 Integrating the Concept of Diverse Interest Groups into Undergraduate Curriculum in Archaeology. The SAA Archaeological Record 14(1):36–39 Sutton, Mark Q. 2013 Archaeology: The Science of the Human Past. 4th ed. Pearson, Boston. Zimmerman, Larry D., Karen D. Vitelli, and Julie Hollowell-Zimmer 2003 Ethical Issues in Archaeology. SAA Press and AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
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