Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Ethics of Commercial Archaeology: Southern Africa

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2282


As far as the discipline of archaeology is concerned, few areas evoke mixed responses as much as the issue of ethics in the subfield of commercial archaeology. To some in southern Africa, as in other places around the globe, commercial archaeology is an opportunity for archaeology to contribute to job creation, policy interventions, and sustainable heritage stewardship (Hall 1989), while to others, it sides with developers in destroying other people’s irreplaceable heritage. Not surprisingly, the rise of commercial archaeology has raised a number of ethical dilemmas – the Hamlet’s to be or not to be moments. Pro-commercial archaeology moral arguments stress the fact that commercial archaeology represents the last opportunity to save archaeological heritage in record before it is destroyed (Deacon 1992; Goudswaard et al. 2012). If archaeologists do not do it, then the heritage will be lost. This is a very appealing moral argument. However, often the very poor-quality...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Chirikure, S. & G. Pwiti. 2008. Community involvement in archaeology and heritage management: case studies from southern Africa and elsewhere. Current Anthropology 49(3): 467-85.Google Scholar
  2. Chirikure, S., M. Manyanga, W. Ndoro & G. Pwiti. 2010. Unfulfilled promises: community participation at some of Africa’s World Heritage sites. International Journal of Heritage Studies 16(1 & 2): 30-44.Google Scholar
  3. Deacon, J. 1992. Archaeology for planners, developers and local authorities. Cape Town: National Monuments Council.Google Scholar
  4. Dunnell, R. C. 1984. The ethics of significance decisions, in E. L. Green (ed.) Ethics and values in archaeology: 62-74. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Goudswaard, B., J. Bos, S. Van Roode & H. Pape. 2012. Forward with reverse archaeology on a new method for utilizing the past in spatial planning. Heritage & Society 5(1): 137–44.Google Scholar
  6. Hall, M. 1989. Contract archaeology in South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 44: 63–4.Google Scholar
  7. - 1990. Hidden history: Iron Age archaeology in southern Africa, in P. Robertshaw (ed.) A history of African archaeology: 59–77. London: James Currey.Google Scholar
  8. - 2005. Situational ethics and engaged practice: the case of archaeology in Africa, in L. Meskell & P. Pels (ed.) Embedding ethics: shifting boundaries of the anthropological profession: 169-96. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  9. Hodder, I. 2002. Ethics and archaeology: the attempt at Catalhoyuk. Near Eastern Archaeology 65(3): 174-81.Google Scholar
  10. In, J. R. 1992. Without ethics and morality: a historical overview of imperial archaeology and American Indians. Arizona State Law Journal 11-34.Google Scholar
  11. Kintigh, K. W. 1996. SAA principles of archaeological ethics. Available at: http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/publications/SAAbulletin/14-3/SAA9.html.
  12. MacIver, R. 1906. Medieval Rhodesia. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Pwiti, G. 1996. Let the ancestors rest in peace? New challenges for cultural heritage management in Zimbabwe. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 151-60.Google Scholar
  14. Scarre, C. & G. F. Scarre. 2006. The ethics of archaeology: philosophical perspectives on archaeological practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Sheperd, N. 2006. What does it mean to give the past back to the people? Archaeology and ethics in the post-colony, in Y. Hamilakis & P. Duke (ed.) Archaeology and capitalism: from ethics to politics: 99-114. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  16. Wylie, A. 1996. Ethical dilemmas in archaeological practice: looting, repatriation, stewardship, and the (trans)formation of disciplinary identity. Perspectives on Science 4(2): 154-94.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa