Ethics of Commercial Archaeology: USA

  • Thomas F. KingEmail author
Living reference work entry


Once upon a time, most archaeologists were employed by academic institutions and museums. Today in the United States and other countries, most archaeologists – and many historians, architectural historians, historical architects, and a few cultural anthropologists and geographers – are employed by profit-making commercial companies engaged in work on behalf of government agencies and private development interests. Working in this context can present ethical challenges for which many archaeologists (among others) are ill prepared.


As used here, “commercial archaeology” means archaeology conducted by profit-making commercial entities such as consulting firms. Some such firms are purely archaeological in character; others work more broadly with “heritage” or “cultural resources,” variously defined. Others are more generalized still, engaging in broad-scoped environmental impact assessment (EIA). Many are architect/engineer firms organized to support the design,...

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Further Reading

  1. Garrow, P.H. 1993. Ethics and contract archaeology. Practicing Anthropology 15 (3): 10–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. King, T.F. 1983. Professional responsibility in public archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 12: 143–164. Available at: Accessed 1 Apr 2017.
  3. Stapp, D.C., and J. Longnecker. 2009. Avoiding archaeological disasters: Risk management for heritage professionals. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  4. U.S. National Park Service. n.d. Archeology law and ethics. Available at: Accessed 1 Apr 2017.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Silver SpringUSA