Ethics and Archaeology - Case Studies

Organization chart of a better research practice for French archaeologyThe archaeological community is currently facing many ethical issues in its daily practice. The Archaeo-Ethics Symposium of 25-26 May 2018 provides an overview of this difficult subject. During the symposium, the constraints of contexts of intervention (armed conflicts, dictatorships, funeral archaeology), economic constraints (archaeological regulations and competition) as well as social constraints (between archaeologists and indigenous or local populations, as well as between professional and amateur archaeologists) were brought up. Among the discussions, the seminar “Professionals, Volunteers, Amateurs and Citizens: Research Actors for What Contributions?” proposes to revisit the contributions of non-professionals in order to consider solutions conducive to a redesign of relations between professional and non-professional actors. Objective: to improve heritage preservation while achieving quality results.

  Jean-Claude Bessac, an amateur researcher turned professional archaeologist

From amateur researcher (isolated, without resources and without qualification) to professional archaeologist (with a team, resources and qualification), Dr. Jean-Claude Bessac carves here hard limestone blocks for the study of the Messène rampart in Greece - Bessac J.-C., personal archives 2005

Article Summary

Since the 1970s, with the evolution of the French administration and a burst in preventive archaeology posts, archaeology has rapidly become professionalized. The benefits of this rapid evolution must now take into account non-professional actors (volunteers, amateurs and citizens) whose diversity has also evolved. Indeed, the distance taken by professionals towards the latter increases every day.

However, for a long time, scholarly communities and associations have fueled scientific production. Some have even led to the creation of research centers sometimes leading to the construction of a museum. These large-scale initiatives from corporate entities may also be found in the case of individuals.

To very different degrees, many other volunteer archaeologists, sometimes defining themselves as “independent researchers”, have contributed their knowledge about human beings through an archaeological approach. Some have even become professionals.

Through the presentation of the contributions and limitations of the various non-professional research actors (in particular volunteer archaeologists and amateur researchers), we highlight the importance of strengthening the link between professionals and non-professionals for tomorrow’s archaeological research in science3 4.0 mode.

Keywords: archaeology, ethics, professional archaeology, volunteers, amateur researchers, testimonials, Egypt, pyramid, France

To Quote the Article

Gransard-Desmond J.-O. (2019), “Professionnels, bénévoles, amateurs et citoyens : des acteurs de la recherche pour quels apports ?”, in Ségolène Vandevelde and Béline Pasquini (dir), Ethics in archaeology, Revue canadienne de bioéthique / Canadian Journal of Bioethics 2/3, pp. 166-193. (publication in french)

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To Learn More…

fleche about the publication by accessing the presentation of the article on the publisher’s page
fleche about the archaeo-ethics conference project by accessing the article published in Les nouvelles de l’archéologie 155 posted online September 6, 2019
fleche about the conference publications by accessing the conference articles on the publisher’s page under license CC BY 4.0
fleche about ArkéoTopia, by viewing ArkéoTopia’s presentation video and feel free to write to us at

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