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Archaeological Ethics and Laws

Do archaeologists keep their finds?

This and other answers



Table of Contents
About These Materials

Culture CaraVan

Curriculum Standards


Archeological Ethics

Archaeology and the Law

Side Story: The Wreckage of the Titanic




Side Story: The Looting and Destruction of Archaeology in Wartime




Side Story: Repatriation


Lesson Activities


A Guide to Approaching Ethics


Case Studies


Reflection Activity


Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts

Discussion Activity
Reflection Activity
Stakeholders Activity


The Battlefields of World War I

Research Project
Opinion Essay




Internet Resources




COVER IMAGES L TO R: An excavation unit from the Brown University course The Archaeology of College Hill; A Brown University student sifting for artifacts during The Archaeology of College
Hill course during their excavations of the First University Presidents House; Brown University Emeritus Professor and Director of the Haffenreffers Circumpolar Laboratory, Douglas Anderson,
with students from Brown, meets with Inupiat community members from Kiana, Alaska.

About These Materials

The Haffenreffer Museum has developed these materials to provide you and your
students useful information, project and activity suggestions and resource materials
that can complement your studies of archaeology and can be used independently
of a museum program.
Have you ever wondered if archaeologists get to keep their finds? Do your students
ask about excavating human bones? This packet begins by explaining the roles of ethics
and laws archaeologists must abide by and answers common questions nonarchaeologists often have such as where archaeologists are allowed to dig and why
cant anyone dig wherever they want.
This informational portion of the packet provides your students with such background
information, and you may choose to have your students use these sections for group,
partner, or independent reading. Following this are ready-to-use lesson plan activities
by using real case studies. Students will reflect on the case studies and formulate well
thought out responses to ethical dilemmas.
These materials were written for grades six through eight; however, you can adapt the
information and activities provided in this packet to the appropriate learning levels of
your students. We also suggest some web sites and books that you and your students
can use in your classroom to learn more about each topic.
Vocabulary words are in bold and defined in the margins.

1. Students will understand that archaeologists must follow codes of ethics and sets
of laws in their work.
2. Students will understand that although archaeologists study the past, their work
can affect living communities.
3. Students will feel comfortable expressing their opinions on issues of ethics and will
learn to affectively formulate their point of view using evidence.

Culture CaraVan:
Bringing the Museum to You!
The Haffenreffer Museum collects and maintains over 100,000 artifacts of human
cultures from around the world. We have offered experiential educational programs
to the public for over forty years.
Through hands-on, object-based activities and inquiry-based teaching, our programs
educate students and teachers about people and societies from around the globe.
Through our Culture CaraVan outreach program, we deliver the worlds cultures right
to your classroom, enhancing the experience with objects from our world famous
collections! Visit our website to learn more about our Culture CaraVan programs.
Dig it! Discovering Archaeology
How do we know about the cultures of the past? Dig it! brings an archaeological site to
you for a down and dirty exploration. Students will participate in a simulated dig during
which they will find and map a variety of artifacts. After their investigation, participants
will report their findings to reconstruct an archaeological site. Take this opportunity to
give your students a unique experience using scientific inquiry to understand the past.
Visit our website at brown.edu/Haffenreffer for more information.

Culture CaraVan

Let us deliver the worlds cultures

right to you with objects
Dig it! Discovering Archaeology
from the Haffenreffer Museums
How do we know about the cultures of the past? Dig it! brings an

site to you for a down and dirty exploration. Students
will participate in a simulated dig during which they will find and
map a variety of artifacts. After their investigation, participants will
report their findings to reconstruct an archaeological site. Take this
opportunity to give your students a unique experience using scientific
inquiry to understand the past.
Check out the complementary lessons on our website!

Culture Connect:
Experience the Cultures of the World

In this interactive program, your students will travel the world with
amazing objects from our collections and explore cultures of today
and yesterday. Participants will become citizens of the world as they
401 863-5700 http://brown.edu/go/haffenrefferoutreach
learn how similar and how exciting their cultural differences can be.
The multitude of objects will turn your classroom into a multicultural
laboratory for teaching inquiry-based lessons about the
worlds cultures.

Indigenous People
of Central America

Native People of the Plains

Participants will explore life on the Plains then and now.
Students will gain an understanding of the importance
of the American buffalo, or Bison, to the survival of the
early Native people of the Plains such as the Kiowa,
Lakota, and Comanche. Participants will learn about the
cultural changes brought by the reservation system
and study how the Plains people today incorporate early
traditions into their contemporary lives.

The program begins with an exploration of the

ancient civilizations of the Toltecs, Olmecs, Aztecs
and Maya. With a focus on the Maya, students learn
about environmental and cultural changes that occurred before the
arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Students will also understand
how the Maya live today and learn about the traditions they continue
to keep. Upon request, we will include a discussion of the issues
the Indigenous people of Central America face within their existing
governments and the experiences of Central American immigrants
in the United States.

Check out the complementary lessons on our website!

Native People of the Southwest: The Hopi

Native People
of Southeastern New England
With a focus on Narragansett and Wampanoag, students
will learn how the early people of what is now New
England lived and used the resources available in their
environment. Students investigate cultural differences
between the English settlers and the Native people, and
will understand how Native people adapted to a changing
society through time. Participants will learn how the
Native People of Southeastern New England continue
to celebrate their heritage using a modern-day social
dance as an example.
Complementary lessons are available on our website!

Did you know that many Hopi still live in the pueblos their ancestors
build on desert mesas hundreds of years ago? Participants will
study Hopi culture in this interactive, hands-on presentation
by examining cultural materials from our collections. Students
will learn about ancestral traditions still observed in modern
Hopi communities and will discover the many surprising resources
available in the desert, how the Hopi use them, and Hopi
beliefs about their world.

Program Descriptions

Outreach programs from

the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

To book a program
Contact us at 401-863-5700, haffenreffer_programs@brown.edu,
or use our on-line form at brown.edu/go/haffenrefferoutreach

Complementary lessons are available on our website!

Native People of the Arctic

Sankofa: African Americans in Rhode Island
Sankofa is a term from the West African Akan language meaning
going back to the past in order to move forward. Evoking that
concept, our Sankofa program focuses on the many cultures of West
Africa whose people were brought to Rhode Island by the transatlantic
slave trade. Participants will study about the experiences of enslaved
Africans in Rhode Island, the roles of Rhode Islanders in ending slavery,
and the contributions African Americans have made and continue
to make in our society. This program can be adjusted for a more
in-depth study of Black Heritage or maintain a Rhode Island focus
depending on the needs of your curriculum.
Complementary lessons are available on our website!

How have people survived and thrived in the Arctics harsh

environment for thousands of years? Find out in this fascinating
program featuring Yupik and Inupiaq people of Alaska. Students will
examine cultural objects and play traditional games that trained
children for hunting. Participants will learn how
people maintain their cultural traditions today
and continue to use their resources wisely.
Students will also investigate how environmental
changes have affected coastal villages and the
hunting economy.

Scheduling: CaraVan programs are available Monday through Friday

in two-hour time slots, however, we can adjust any program to fit
shorter class periods such as a middle or high school bell schedule.
Group Size: There is a maximum of 30 participants per session. If
your group surpasses 30, you will need to schedule multiple sessions.
We can accommodate up to two sessions per day.
Cost: The cost is $6 per person. There is a $150 minimum charge
each day. A gas fee of $15 per ten-mile increment may be charged to
locations over forty miles from the Museum's site in Bristol.
Cancellations: A two-week notice is required for all cancellations or
a $50 cancellation fee will be charged (except for snow days).
Chaperones: For groups including participants under age 18, we require
an adult in the room at all times to assist the museum educator.
Special Needs: Please inform us of any needs your group may have.
We are committed to having our programs accessible to all.

Links to Curriculum Standards

National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards
People, Places, and Environments
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Science, Technology, and Society
Global Connections
Common Core State Standards
W.6-8.1.a-e, 2.a-b, 4, 7, 8
SL.6-8.1.a-d, 4
WHST.6-8.1.a-b, 2.a-b, 4, 7, 8
Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations
Civics and Government
Grades 5-6
C&G 2-2.a, c.
C&G 3-2.b
C&G 4-3.a, b, c
Grades 7-8
C&G 3-2.a, b
C&G 4-1.e
C&G 4-3.d
C&G 5-2.b
C&G 5-3.b
WIDA Consortium Standards for English Language Learners
ELD Standard 1: Reading, Writing, Levels 3-5
ELD Standard 5: Reading, Writing, Levels 3-5

People who interpret the archaeological record are able to explain things
about where and when humans lived. Archaeologists use the material
they excavate to describe how people spent their days, what kinds of food they
ate, and what kinds of houses they lived in. Archaeology provides us with
information about the diverse ways that people have chosen to live throughout
human history.
archaeological record

Archaeologists study the materials that humans leave behind. They make
meaning by looking at artifacts. They pay attention to aspects like color, context,
shape, texture, and geographic location. This is a different way of learning about
the past than the study of history, which relies on written documents or
interviews. Like historians, archaeologists sometimes study written material.
Both historical documents and archaeological texts can be compared with
other archaeological evidence. When this happens, archaeological evidence
sometimes supports the written narratives, but it can also offer a different point
of view. Because archaeology does not rely only on writing, it is able to offer
a different picture of the past. People have only been literate for a tiny fraction
of human history, so archaeological material can tell us about societies that
do not have written records. Sometimes, only certain members of a society
have the power to write. If archaeologists looked only at written texts, their
perspectives about the past would be too limited.
Excavating sites involves digging in the dirt and removing objects, layer
by layer. Once archaeological sites are excavated, they cannot be put back
together in exactly the same way that they were found. Because of this, the
sites are considered irreplaceable. Archaeologists have to be careful in
deciding which sites to excavate. They need to remember to leave some sites
undisturbed so that in the future, sites will be available for people who want
to answer different questions. Archaeologists may also decide not to dig
at a site if it is a burial ground or if it has spiritual significance to
descendent communities.

physical remains that show

evidence of human activity

removing soil or other

materials in order to find
buried remains

an object made by a human


an artifacts perspective
or environment. When an
artifact is in context, it
is taken into consideration
with its surroundings

able to read and write

Once archaeologists decide to excavate, they have to take detailed notes

so that others can learn from their project. If they take careful notes and
document their findings, other archaeologists who have different research
questions might be able to use their data to answer new questions.
Archaeologists know that the research questions change over time. They also
know that technology constantly changes the ways that they excavate.

Because of this, they are careful to consider how their actions in the present
might affect research conducted in the future.
There are often many people and groups who have a vested interest in a
given archaeological site. These are called stakeholders. Archaeologists can
be stakeholders if they have a personal or professional interest in the site.
Descendant communities are also stakeholders. Descendant communities are
groups made up of people who are related genetically or culturally to the
people who used to live at place that is being excavated. In the United States,
Native American groups are one example of descendant communities. People
who live near the site are sometimes stakeholders. Finally, the people who
own the land that the site is located on can be stakeholders.
To summarize, archaeological sites:
tell us how people lived in the past
give us more information than written sources alone can provide
cannot be replaced


people and groups who have

a vested interest in a given
archaeological site
descendant communities

groups made up of people who

are related genetically or
culturally to the people who
used to live at the place that
is being excavated

can have significance to people alive today

a set of understandings
that help people make
moral decisions

For these reasons, archaeologists have obligations when it comes to dealing

with archaeological sites and artifacts. The interactions that they have with
these sites are guided by two factors: ethics and laws.


systems of rules that govern

acceptable actions within a
particular area

What are Archaeological Ethics?

Ethics are a set of understandings that help people make good decisions.
Ethics are not rules: it would be impossible to create a set of rules that would
cover every single situation someone might encounter. Instead, ethics are
core ideas that help people decide how to act. People who work in different
professions face different kinds of ethical challenges. Because of this,
many professionals have their own sets of ethics to guide their decisions.
Archaeologists do, too, and these are called archaeological ethics.
Many students have had their own experiences with codes of ethics. This is
usually called a classroom code of conduct. Most codes of conduct act as
guides. They provide broad examples of the kinds of behaviors that students
should take on. For instance, one part of a code of conduct might be treat
classmates with respect. This general statement helps students make
decisions in lots of different circumstances. From this statement, students can
determine how to act in specific situations. Students would know, for instance,
not to interrupt another student when he or she is speaking. Students would
also know that they should be patient if a classmate needs help understanding
a new concept. Can you think of other specific situations in which treat
classmates with respect would guide your actions?

AMA (American Medical Association)s

Code of Medical Ethics.

Archaeological codes of ethics are similar to student codes of conduct. Here is

an example of part of an archaeological ethical code:
Archaeologists should take care of archaeological sites.
This statement should guide archaeologists in making good decisions in many
different situations. Using this idea as a guide, an archaeologist would
understand that archaeological sites are not places to dig for treasures.
The archaeologist would know that she should record as much information
about the site as possible so that others can benefit from her work. She
would understand that taking care of archaeological sites is part of her
professional responsibility.
It is important to note that like all professional ethics, archaeological ethics
can transform over time. As researchers interests change and as stakeholders
take on different levels of engagement, the questions that guide archaeological
ethics can change. Beginning in 2008, some members of the Society for
American Archaeology (SAA) called for a review of the Societys code of
ethics. They suggested that the organizations code be reviewed every ten
years. The discussion is ongoing, and the members hope that their organization
will benefit from regular, critical reflections on the organizations mission.

National societies like the AIA and

SAA have developed codes of ethics
for professional archaeologists.
Smaller societies and institutions may
look to these codes for guidance.

Archaeology and the Law

Like ethics, laws determine how people interact with archaeological sites and
artifacts. However, laws are different from ethics because laws are usually very
specific and people who do not obey them are penalized. Laws and ethics are
related, since commonly held ethical beliefs are sometimes written into laws
by state and federal legislators. Laws and ethics sometimes overlap, but not
always. It is possible to break the law without violating ethics. For instance,
Americans who were part of the Underground Railroad broke the law by hiding
enslaved people in their homes. They felt that slavery was unethical and that
it was more important for them to do what they thought was right than
to follow the law. It is also possible to violate ethics without breaking the law.
For example cheating on homework would likely violate ones personal ethics,
but it is not illegal.
Both state governments and the federal government enforce archaeological
laws. Laws concerning archaeology vary from state to state, since archaeological
sites and materials are so diverse. For instance, Floridas laws regulating
underwater archaeology are more specific than Wyomings since Florida has
such an extensive coastline. In addition, state laws can be more responsive to
local needs: stakeholders sometimes find it easier to influence legislation at
the state level than at the federal level.

These issues will be explored

from an archaeological
standpoint in the Case Studies
at the end of this section.

If you are interested in

learning more about
archaeological law in your
state, you can visit the
website of your state archaeologist, or State Historic
Preservation Officer (SHPO):

U.S. Archaeological Law

U.S. Archaeological law emerged during the late 1800s when many Americans
were beginning to take an interest in archaeology. At the time, there were
no laws that regulated the preservation of archaeological sites or materials on
federal lands. This changed with the passage of the ANTIQUITIES ACT of 1906.
This law set up penalties for those who disturbed sites or excavated without
the proper permits. The law encourages archaeologists to make materials
available in museums and public institutions so that people can look at them
and so researchers can study them. Nearly three decades later, these laws
were expanded and reinforced by the HISTORIC SITES ACT of 1935. This act
called for a vast survey of historic and archaeological sites throughout
the country. Once sites of significance were identified, the act authorized the
purchase and maintenance of the sites.

Find out what historic places

in your community are listed
on the National Register
of Historic Places. Visit:

The NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT of 1966 further protects archaeological sites by permitting them to be listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. The act also offers financial and technical assistance so that
sites can be preserved. These forms of assistance are considered investments,
since under this act, sites are viewed as sources for economic growth. This
means that the sites might make their communities more appealing places to
live, or that the sites might draw tourists.
Archaeological sites gained even more federal protection with the passage
requires federal agencies to investigateand sometimes protectarchaeological sites during construction projects. When a federal agency begins a project,
like constructing new offices, expanding a highway, or building a dam, this act
requires the agency to set aside funds to pay for archaeological investigation
and the preservation of any significant materials that are found.
During this time, archaeologists became increasingly concerned that the high
value of some archaeological objects was making archaeological materials
vulnerable to theft. When archaeological objects are stolen, much of their
contextual information is lost. In addition, rather than going to museums or
research institutions, the objects usually end up in the hands of private collectors
where few people can access them. Remember, when archaeologists find
objects, they do not keep them; they make them available so that the
public can benefit from them. The ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES PROTECTION
ACT of 1979 responded to the problem of theft by establishing penalties for
people who stole archaeological material from federal lands. These penalties
include fines and imprisonment. If someone destroys part of a site, he or she
may also have to pay to have it repaired. This act makes it clear that only
trained archaeologists with the proper permits may excavate archaeological
sites or remove archaeological material from public lands.
Soon after, the federal government increased its protection of maritime
archaeological material with the passage of the ABANDONED SHIPWRECK ACT
of 1987. This act acknowledged that maritime sites serve many functions.
They can be interesting recreational sites for divers and tourists. They can be
habitats for marine life. They are also useful sources of information for
scientists and archaeologists. Because of their value to science, they can be
considered archaeological sites rather than just commercial property. Through
this act, the federal government established ownership over most of the
nations shipwrecks, and has been better able to protect them in a way that
reflects their value as recreational and educational resources.

The John Brown House, Providence, RI

is listed on the National Register
of Historic Sites
Photo Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel, Brown University

Archaeologists survey a wrecked ship

from the Battle of Saipan, Tanapag
Lagoon, World War II.

maritime archaeological

evidence of human interactions

with oceans, lakes, rivers,
and other bodies of water


View of the bow of the RMS Titanic photographed in June 2004 by the ROV
Hercules during an expedition returning to the shipwreck of the Titanic.


The Wreckage of the Titanic

For decades, people tried to find the wreckage of the Titanic, a ship that
sank in 1912. It resulted in the deaths of over 1500 passengers. In 1985,
Robert Ballard, University of Rhode Island professor and oceanographer,
located the wreck over two miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
Ballard decided not to remove any of the objects found at the wreck, as he
considered doing so to be disrespectful to those who had died. However,
the Titanic lies in international waters, and there is no clear owner of
the vessel. A company called RMS Titanic Inc. began making dives to the
site and has since removed thousands of artifacts.
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural

Front page of the Vancouver Sun

newspaper from April 16, 1912
Photo Credit: Heritage Vancouver Society
from Flickr

Heritage was adopted in 2001 and over 45 countries have agreed to abide

by it. It is an attempt to protect underwater sites in the same manner that

sites on land are protected. The Convention applies only to sites with
traces of human existence having a cultural, historical or archaeological character which have been under water for at least 100 years. This
means that as of April 15, 2012, the Titanic wreckage became 100 years old
and is now eligible for protection under this act. As of 2013, France has
ratified the charter, but the United States and United Kingdom have not.


In 1990, an act was passed that acknowledged the importance of Native

American stakeholders in overseeing archaeological sites and materials. This
ACT. This act has two components. One, museums that receive federal funds
are required to maintain lists of the Native American human remains and
funerary objects that were collected from within the United States. This act
enables Native Americans to request that these objects be returned to their
tribes rather than remaining at museums. The second part of the act
requires that Native American tribes be consulted if Native American funerary
remains or funerary objects are uncovered during excavations on federal or
tribal lands. Sometimes archaeologists uncover these funerary objects and
funerary remains, but people working in construction, logging, agriculture,
or mining might also uncover them.
International Archaeological Charters and Conventions

human remains

the physical remains of a

deceased individual
funerary objects

items that were placed alongside the body of the deceased

at the time of death or after.
These could be part of a
ritual surrounding the death
of the individual

All of the laws discussed so far apply to the United States, but there are
international laws too. One organization that provides guidance on international
CULTURAL ORGANIZATION (UNESCO). It has helped to build an international
network of countries that are committed to treating archaeological material
with respect so that it can be learned from and maintained for the future.
All of these laws and conventionsboth within the U.S. and internationally
have been enacted to protect archaeological material so that it will continue
to be available to learn from in the future. It may appear that many of the
laws emphasize things that the public cannot do. For instance, there are strict
regulations on who can excavate a site or who can buy and sell artifacts.
You might think archaeologists have more privileges than everyone else.
However, archaeologists are bound by these laws and by their own ethical codes.
They make decisions that will preserve archaeological sites so that future
researchers can benefit from them.


Looting is a form of theft. In the case of archaeology, it describes the illegal
excavation of archaeological sites, usually with the intention to sell whatever
artifacts are found. Unlike archaeologists, looters do not document their
excavations so that others can learn from them. Another difference between
archaeologists and looters is that looters do not publish reports, so researchers
do not benefit from their work. Many looters sell artifacts to people who
have no intention of making them available to the public.
While there are laws in place to penalize looters, some argue that people
should refuse to purchase artifacts that lack proper documentation. If no one
were to buy the artifacts, there would be less incentive for looters to steal
them. Others who oppose looting suggest that archaeologists should be
cautious in appraising artifacts, as this can make artifacts easier to buy and sell.
Museums can play a role in combatting looting. Some museums refuse to
exhibit artifacts that might have been looted or that may have been traded
illegally. Some museums are active in returning looted artifacts to their countries
of origin. When the Haffenreffer Museum accepts new objects, it requires
proper documentation to show that the object was not purchased or imported
illegally. The Museum also publishes photographs of new acquisitions. That way,
if someone recognizes a stolen object, he or she can report it to the Museum.
The Museum will then work with the appropriate people to get the
object returned.

Holes dug by looters at the archaeological

site of Isin in Iraq

Most archaeologists recognize that looting is a complex problem and that

in spite of all the efforts to outlaw looting, it persists. Looting sometimes
occurs in places where people have few opportunities for employment. In this
case, people loot out of economic necessity. Looting can also take place in
countries where wars or natural disasters have made governments less stable,
and are therefore less able to deal with looting. Regardless of the cause,
most archaeologists believe that in addition to laws, a well-educated public
is an important defense against looting.


Members of the terrorist group known as ISIS take a sledgehammer

to sculptures in the Mosul Museum


The Looting and Destruction of Archaeology

in Wartime
Looting and destruction of ancient archaeological sites occurs during wartime
as well. In some cases, looters are simply taking advantage of chaos and use
the opportunity to take and sell artifacts on the black market as a means to make
money. In other cases, ancient sites may be mistakenly destroyed as another
casualty of the war. Still, in other cases, archaeological sites are systematically
destroyed in an attempt to erase history and re-write the past. Most recently,
the terrorist group we label ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) has purposefully destroyed a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Nimrud, Khorsabad,
Hatra among others in the countries of Iraq and Syria. In addition, they set fire
to the Mosul Library, destroying 18th-Century books and manuscripts, and used
sledgehammers to obliterate sculptures and artifacts in the Mosul Museum
in Iraq. As you have been reading, archaeology is a science, and archaeological
artifacts and sites provide evidence of past cultures. ISIS acts are two-fold.
First, ISIS hopes to purposefully destroy archaeological evidence in an attempt
to erase ethnic and religious heritage it does not agree with. It hopes that within
generations, much of the history of the region will be forgotten and they can
maintain control over the people living there by creating a new history. Second,
artifacts not destroyed are being sold on the black market, even on eBay,
Facebook, and other social media sites. Money made from stolen artifacts help fund
their efforts by allowing them to purchase firearms and other wartime items.


Archaeologists frequently work with non-archaeologists who have an interest
in a particular site. These can include descendent communities, landowners,
local residents, and researchers. Archaeologists work with each of these
groups in different ways:
Descendent community members: Descendent communities have a
cultural or genetic link to the people who once lived at the site that is being
excavated. Archaeologists may have a legal obligation to work with
descendent communities, particularly Native American tribes. They may also
have an ethical obligation to consult with these stakeholders, even if there
is not a legal requirement to do so.
Landowners: Archaeologists may need permission from landowners to work
on their land. Landowners are sometimes excited to discover archaeological
material on their property. Other times, though, this can pose a problem.
Having archaeological material on ones property might mean that the land
cannot be used for the purpose the land was purchased for. It might also be
inconvenient for the landowner to have people digging on his or her property.
Federal agencies, like the
National Parks Service (NPS),


Repatriation can be a very complicated process. Shortly after the passage
of NAGPRA*, Chicagos Field Museum of Natural History received a request
from members of the Northern Arapaho tribe. These members wanted the
museum to return a sacred object called a Sundance Medicine Wheel that
a curator had purchased from them in 1903. Before the Wheel was purchased
by the museum, it had been used in tribal ceremonies. Some Arapaho did not
want the object to leave the museum. Members of the Southern Arapaho said
that after the Wheel had been sold, the tribe had created a new one. The
new Wheel had been used for 90 years, and as a result, it had a great deal
of importance. In the end, the museum had a legal obligation to return the
object. The members of the Northern Arapaho and Southern Arapaho found
a way to respect each others differing opinions by accepting the Wheel,
but deciding not to use it in ceremonies.

sometimes ask mapmakers to

leave important archaeological or historic sites off their
maps. Many of these sites are
unsupervised, and the NPS
found that listing them on
maps makes them vulnerable
to looters or vandals. Archaeologists often want to inform
the public about local
history, but they must also
protect the site.

* see page 12 for more information on NAGPRA


Brown University Emeritus Professor

and Director of the Haffenreffer's
Circumpolar Laboratory, Douglas
Anderson, with students from Brown,
meets with Inupiat community members
from Kiana, Alaska, describing his
excavations at a site of their ancestors,
under excavation in July 2013.

Local residents: Local residents may have an interest in archaeological sites

in their communities. Archaeologists often encourage interest from the
public, but they also have an obligation to protect sites from vandalism and
looting. They may choose to share information about the kinds of things
they find, but keep the location of the site a secret.
Researchers: Sometimes, rather than digging a new site, archaeologists
choose to review field notes and artifacts from previous digs. This means
that someone who played no part in excavating a site might try to learn from
it years or even decades later. Archaeologists need to keep these researchers
in mind as they dig and record data. They need to be careful with the
archaeological objects that they handle and they need to take clear, detailed
notes so that future researchers can benefit from their work.
As you might imagine, archaeologists can have difficulties balancing the needs
of all the stakeholders. For instance, an archaeologist may want to excavate
a site found on someones private property, but a landowner may not want
to deal with the noise and inconvenience of having an archaeological dig in
his yard.
Sometimes archaeological evidence differs from written or oral histories.
One example of this is when descendent communities have stories about the
past that are different from the history suggested by archaeological evidence.
In these cases, archaeologists need to be respectful of the differing viewpoints.
As always, they need to be sure that they are conducting their fieldwork
carefully. They may wait until they have a good deal of evidence before they
present the competing history. In some cases, stories told by descendent
communities may provide insight into the way people used to live. It is also
important for archaeologists to remember that regardless of their role in
supporting or refuting archaeological claims, these stories are important
sources unto themselves.


Lesson Activities
A Note To Teachers: In the following sections, you will find:
Approaching Ethics is a short description that will help students navigate the ethical
dilemmas in the case studies
Huaqueros is a case study that describes the complicated nature of looting. This case
study is followed by a reflection activity.
Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts is a case study that weighs the costs of displaying
commercially salvaged objects in museums. This case study is followed by a discussion
activity, a reflection activity, and a stakeholders activity.
Battlefields of World War I is a case study that explores issues of managing a
battlefield site. This case study is followed by a site management activity.
The case studies and activities can be printed and handed out to students. Some case
studies have more than one activity. Based on the interests of your students you
can choose to do one or all of the activities. They do not build off of each other.
Students need to read the corresponding case study in order to complete the activity.
Students may also read the Approaching Ethics handout before each case study
to help guide them.


A Guide to Approaching Ethics

It is not always easy to make ethical decisions. Sometimes the best decision is not clear
right away. It may require a lot of thinking. Other times the right decision is obvious,
but choosing it might make things difficult for others or for us.
Below are a few suggestions for approaching ethics. These are meant to be starting
points. You and your classmates may want to add to this list.
Be creative.
Draw on all kinds of experiences you have had.
You may want to talk through the issue with people you respect.
Get more information if necessary.
Think about the issue from different perspectives.
Use facts to support your ideas.
Remember that the right answer is not always clear, but it is worthwhile to try
to come up with an ethical solution.
Can you think of any others?



In 1968, Dwight Heath and Anna Cooper.Heath
were living in Costa Rica and doing research.
While they were there, they discovered a vast
network of tomb-robbers (huaqueros). Some
huaqueros worked legally, with government-issued
Huaqueros examining broken pottery
Photo Credit: Dwight Heath, 1968 from the Haffenreffer Museum
permits, and others worked without permits. They
of Anthropology Collections
took objects from graves and sold them to private
collectors and museums in Costa Rica and abroad.
The Heaths became interested in learning more about the life and work of huaqueros.
Tomb-raiding was a big industryit employed about 1% of Costa Ricas workforceso
the Heaths knew that there must have been a strong incentive for people to take part
in that work. As they suspected, people worked as huaqueros because it provided a
good source of income. They found, for instance, that carpenters made twice as much
working as huaqueros than they made doing carpentry work. Still, the antiquities
market did not reward everyone equally. Sellers on the international market made
much more than the huaqueros, and the huaqueros made much more than the farmers
whose lands they worked on.
The Heaths also found that the tastes of collectors influenced the digging that the
huaqueros undertook. Huaqueros had a good eye for objects that would sell well.
They knew, for instance, that Andean or Mayan-influenced pieces from sites dating
from AD 500-1500 would sell better than other objects. As a result, sites from
these time periods were raided more extensively.
Over time, the Costa Rican government began to limit the ability of huaqueros
to work. They began by refusing to issue digging permits to huaqueros. This did not
completely stop the practice, though, since many continued to work without permits.
In 1970, UNESCO passed a convention that made it more difficult to buy and sell
artifacts internationally, particularly without the proper documentation. This helped
reduce the amount of huaquerismo that took place, but it did not stop it completely.


The Heaths research helped to show why people loot sites. It also showed how difficult
it is to determine how artifacts should be used. Do they belong in museums? If so,
do they belong in Costa Rican museums, or can they be owned by museums abroad?
Under what conditions should private collectors be able to purchase artifacts? If
digging for artifacts can provide people with a better income, should they be allowed
to dig? Who decides?
At first, many of the huaqueros were working with government-issued permits to
excavate, meaning that they were not breaking any laws. Nevertheless, they excavated
with the goal of removing objects and selling them, and paid no attention to how the
artifacts might have been learned from.
Today, the Heaths collection provides a valuable visual tool that accompanies their
ethnographic research. All of their objects were imported legally, and they donated
many to the Haffenreffer Museum where they can be useful to researchers.

A huaquero looking at the pots he excavated

Photo Credit: Dwight Heath, 1968 from the Haffenreffer Museum
of Anthropology Collections



(Adapted from Colwell-Chanthaphonh et al. 2008: 61)
This activity is meant to help you understand the ethical dimensions of this case
and to convey your ideas in oral and written forms.
1. Read the entire case study.
2. Describe, in writing, what the ethical dilemma is.
3. Write a list of the possible choices the actors could make.
4. Write one paragraph describing what you think the most ethical choice is and
why it is the most ethical choice.
5. When you are finished writing your responses, your teacher will put you
into groups of two to three to discuss your ideas.



Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts

The Smithsonian Institution is an organization of museums based in Washington, D.C.
In 2011, the directors faced an ethical dilemma. They had to decide whether to host
an exhibit of Chinese artifacts that were taken (or salvaged) from a shipwreck off
the coast of Indonesia.
The shipwreck was an important find. Not only were the objects beautiful and well
persevered, but studying the ship would have provided archaeologists and historians
with a completely new understanding of the past. The ship sank around the year 800.
It appeared to have been an Arab ship, and it was filled with Chinese pottery, as well as
gold and silver objects made by Chinese artisans. This is especially interesting because
previously, people believed that the trade between China and the Middle East took
place by land, and this shipwreck shows us that trade took place by sea as well. The site
was quickly salvaged by Indonesian commercial excavators who sold the objects to the
government of Singapore. Because the site was quickly salvaged by commercial
excavators rather than carefully excavated by archaeologists, a great deal of contextual
information was lost.
When they heard that the salvaged artifacts would be coming to the Smithsonian,
archaeologists, scholars, and museum professionals wrote letters to the directors
of the Smithsonian saying that the institution should not host the exhibit. Those
who opposed the exhibit feared that doing so would encourage future commercial
salvaging of sites. After months of debating, the Smithsonian decided to cancel
the exhibition.
The events that unfolded in this case study could have taken place in a
number of different ways. The questions below ask you to think about some of
these possibilities.



Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts

Discuss these questions in groups of three to four. Take turns writing down your
answers. When youre finished, your teacher will call on students to present their ideas
to the class.
1. Archaeologist James Delgado said that he would have preferred not to cancel
the exhibit. Instead, he would have used the exhibit as a way to explain how
archaeological investigations of shipwrecks can provide more information than
commercial excavations provide. If it were up to you, would you display the
salvaged artifacts at the museum? Would you take Delgados advice?
2. If the museum decided not to display the artifacts, what else could be done
with them?
3. Archaeologist Michael Flecker argued that quickly salvaging the contents of the
shipwreck was the only way to keep the collection intact and safe from looters
who might sell the pieces individually. He said that a long-term archaeological
investigation of the ship would not have been practical because the Indonesian
government did not have the resources to protect the site from looters. Therefore,
Flecker argued that having a company come and salvage artifacts from the ship
was the best choice given the circumstances. Do you agree with Flecker? Why or
why not?
4. What kinds of information is lost without long-term archaeological investigation?



Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts

(Adapted from Colwell-Chanthaphonh et al. 2008: 61)
This activity is meant to help you understand the ethical dimensions of this case
and to convey your ideas in oral and written forms.
1. Read the entire case study.
2. Describe, in writing, what the ethical dilemma is.
3. Write a list of the possible choices the actors could make.
4. Write one paragraph describing what you think the most ethical choice is and
why it is the most ethical choice.
5. When you are finished writing your responses, your teacher will put you
into groups of two to three to discuss your ideas.



Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts

(Adapted from Colwell-Chanthaphonh et al. 2008: 62)
In this activity, discuss the ethical dilemmas from this case from the point of view
of a particular stakeholder. Work collaboratively to come up with the solution you think
is most ethical.
For this activity, your teacher will assign you to take on the roles of the
following stakeholders:
Museum Director: this stakeholder wants his or her museum to have an interesting,
exciting exhibit that people would want to come to.
Commercial excavator: this stakeholder was called in after the ship was found.
He or she was told to get as many objects out of the ship as quickly as possible and
wants to be able to sell as many of the objects as possible.
Professional archaeologist: this stakeholder would have liked to excavate the
shipwreck carefully so that people could learn from it. This stakeholder was not
called in to excavatethe commercial excavator was. In the future, this stakeholder
hopes that people who find archaeological sites will employ archaeologists instead
of commercial excavators.
1. Students will be assigned to groups of three.
2. Within the team, your teacher will assign each student a role: museum director,
commercial excavator, and professional archaeologist.
3. Read the case Exhibiting Salvaged Artifacts.
4. Within the small groups, explain what the dilemma is from the point-of-view
of your stakeholder.
5. When all groups have finished, have each group share its findings with the class.



The Battlefields of World War I

Between 1914 and 1917 three World War I battles were fought in the town
of Ypres [pronounced EEE-pris], Belgium. There were over 850,000 Allied
and German casualties over the course of these battles, and the soldiers who
fought there came from such diverse places as India, China, North Africa,
Europe, Australia, and North America. The battlefields located in the town
have become places where people go to remember the tragic events of
World War I. There are soldiers buried in graveyards and in tombs, and the
remains of thousands of soldiers listed as missing in action lie in unmarked
graves beneath the surface of the town. There is conflict over whether the
battle sites and graves should be disturbed.
One element of the conflict is that Ypres is a growing city. While it is known
for the World War I battlefields, it is also the home of a growing tech industry.
Some people who live there would like to improve the towns infrastructure
by building new roads. This would require construction workers to build
on former battlefields and possibly encounter buried human remains. If the
remains of soldiers were found, they would need to be reburied. This would
be a complicated process since the soldiers who died at the site represent
many different cultural and religious traditions, and members of these groups
typically have different preferences for how they wish to be buried. Some
people also see building roads as disturbing the battlefields, which have been
left relatively undisturbed for decades.
For years, professional archaeologists ignored the sites at Ypres. It was not
until 2003 that a team of professional archaeologists from Belgium and
Britain began excavating. Amateur investigations, on the other hand, have
been taking place for decades. Through these excavations, local people
have been digging up artifacts at that site and sometimes selling them. The
Belgian government has issued these groups permits to dig, but the excavators
do not have the same level of skill and commitment to accuracy that most
archaeologists have. Many of the amateurs use metal detectors and hunt
for objects rather than excavating in an orderly fashion. They collect objects
like coins, bullets, helmets, and other military gear. The materials collected
by these groups is typically kept in private collections.

This photo from 2005 shows

World War I shells that were unearthed
in Ypres, Belgium.
Photo Credit: ColinsCamera from Flickr

amateur investigations

the excavation of
archaeological sites by people
who are not trained in
archaeological excavation
or research techniques



The Battlefields of World War I:

Reburial Practices
When soldiers died at Ypres, most were buried, but the process took place very quickly.
Sadly, people were dying too quickly for there to be time for a typical burial. As a
result, the remains of several soldiers might be buried in a single grave. In cases like
these, some people feel that a better way of honoring these soldiers would be to
excavate their remains and rebury them in separate graves according to the cultural
preferences of the deceased. Those who take part in excavating the bodies and
reburying them have to become knowledgeable about many different cultural and
religious traditions. For this topic, research a burial custom that you are not familiar
with. You might research Lakota practices, Islamic practices, Jewish practices, or
ancient Egyptian practices, or any other practice you are interested in.
Once you have conducted the research, write one to two paragraphs describing
a burial in the cultural context of your choice. Some things to include are:
1. What are the steps that should be taken?
2. Is there significance behind the steps? If so, what do they mean?

For an account of a recent reburial at Ypres, visit:




The Battlefields of World War I:

Amateur Investigations
For many years, there was little professional archaeological interest in battlefield
archaeology. At Ypres, local people formed groups to conduct amateur investigations,
and some people have been part of these groups for decades. They hope to find
material that they can either sell or keep for themselves. They alert museum authorities
when human remains are uncovered. For amateur investigators, digging is something
they enjoy doing as a community. Over the past decade, professional archaeologists
have begun to take an interest in Ypres. They feel that they alone should dig at the site,
since they can dig in a way that accurately describes information about the site. The
information they find is important for researchers.
Write a one-page essay that answers the following questions:
Who do you think should be permitted to dig at the site? Should the rights go to
professional archaeologists, many of whom come from outside of Ypres? Or should
they belong to the amateur diggers, who may be descendants of the soldiers,
and who have had an interest in the site for many years? Use examples to support
your opinion.


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Internet Resources for Students

Contact Your Senator

This resource packet has described how ethics, and even laws, change over time.
If there is something that you want to change, write to your senator:
Learn More about Burial Laws
This resource packet has described how complex laws can be and how they vary
from state-to-state and country-to-country. To learn more about burial laws in the US,
visit the website of American Universitys State Burial Laws Project:


These materials were written by Grace Cleary who served as an Education Intern
at the Museum during the 2013-2014 academic year. Grace earned her Masters degree
through the Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst
in 2013.
This project was written as part of an internship and independent study. The
internship was supervised by Geralyn Ducady, Curator of Programs and Education
at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. The independent study was
completed by Grace Cleary at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department
of Anthropology under the supervision of Professor Sonya Atalay.
Geralyn Ducady was also the project director and editor.
Curriculum standards were researched and updated by Keller Anne Bumgardner
who served as an Education Intern at the Museum during the 2014-2015 academic
year. Ms. Bumgardner received her Masters Degree in Urban Education Policy
from Brown University in 2015.
Graphic Design and layout by Alyssa Zelman.
We welcome questions and comments. Teacher feedback on the use of these materials
in the classroom is appreciated. Please email us at haffenreffer_programs@brown.edu.

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