Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Alison Wylie
ARCHY 469
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Archaeology

Consideration in detail of specific archaeological topics, either methodological or substantive in content, of current interest. Offered occasionally by resident, new, or visiting faculty. For advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Prerequisite: ARCHY 205.

Class description

Research Ethics in Archaeology: Accountability, Conservation, Stewardship

Archaeological practice raises profoundly challenging ethics issues. The central question we will address in this seminar is: to whom and to what are archaeologists accountable? It is often said that the primary goal of archaeology is to advance our understanding of the human, cultural past. But what happens when these goals come into conflict with the interests of those affected by archaeological research? In particular, what responsibilities do archaeologists have to those whose cultural heritage they study? Do archaeologists have an obligation to protect the archaeological record--to "save the past for the future"?-- and how is this balanced against destructive investigation of the record? Should archaeologists work with archaeological material that has been looted and commercially traded? How should archaeologists navigate conflicts between the demands of employers, oversight agencies, and research goals when they work in industry or in government?

These questions are at the center of debates that are changing the way archaeology is practiced. Most urgent are issues of accountability raised by descendant communities, especially Indigenous, Native American, and First Nations communities who call for a decolonization of archaeology. An ethic of stewardship has been proposed in response to these issues; one central aim of this course is to draw out the implications of stewardship ideals for archaeological practice. We begin with framing questions and then turn to the analysis of cases that raise, in concrete terms, these multi-dimensional issues of accountability. Readings will include selections from: Collaboration in Archaeological Practice: Engaging Descendant Communities (Collwell-Chanthaphonh and Ferguson 2008), Embedding Ethics (Meskell and Pells, 2005), and Ethical Issues in Archaeology (Zimmerman, Vitelli, and Hollowell, 2003).

Student learning goals

To develop a normative and historical framework in terms of which to identify and assess ethics issues in archaeology.

To foster skills of critical analysis of ethics issues that arise in practice.

To articulate and assess the implications of an ethic of stewardship for archaeology.

To build a case-based understanding of strategies for respectfully and constructively working with diverse stakeholders in archaeological contexts.

General method of instruction

Seminar format: discussion based on weekly reading responses, and a case study-based "ethics bowl."

Recommended preparation

Background in archaeological research in at least one field area, and a commitment to

Class assignments and grading

Weekly reading responses; several short assigned-topic essay; in-class presentations (on weekly readings and in ethics bowl format).


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Margaret Alison Wylie
Date: 04/24/2009