The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on by Chris Scarre, Geoffrey Scarre

By Chris Scarre, Geoffrey Scarre

Archaeologists have gotten more and more aware of their moral duties within the discovery, interpretation and custodianship of the archaeological checklist. during this vital new assortment, best foreign archaeologists and philosophers come jointly to debate the numerous moral matters raised by way of the modern perform of archaeology. Addressing issues resembling archaeologists' relatives with indigenous peoples, the position of moral codes, looting and the exchange in antiquities, repatriation, and archaeologists' remedy of the useless, this publication is a perfect advent to the ethics of archaeology.

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When we do not know the testamentary wishes of the last owners, they are in a position similar to that of people who die intestate. When people die intestate, certain procedures for deciding who inherits are followed. These procedures make counterfactual presumptions about who the beneficiaries would have been, had a last testament been formulated and recorded. It is highly unlikely that the intended beneficiaries of the last owners were the members of a culture as a whole. On the contrary, it is likely that an individual would have intended that property remain within his family.

It is held to follow that every Monet ought to be returned to France, every Haida carving to the Queen Charlotte Islands, every shard of Attic pottery to Greece. This view is absurd, as is any position that entails it. Nevertheless, it may appear difficult to explain why a culture has a claim on some items of tangible cultural property but not on others. The proposal advanced here is capable of explaining why a culture has a claim on some artefacts but not others. Sometimes the value of an item for a culture is sufficient to ensure that the cultural significance principle trumps other applicable principles.

In other cases, it will be most important to ensure that members of a culture for whom a find has special significance have ready access to it. It is worth noting, in the context of a mention of the access principle, that the basements of the museums of the world are full of undisplayed and unstudied archaeological finds. An artefact that languishes in the basement of the British Museum might be a prized exhibit in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Many objects are more valuable when their integrity is ensured.

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