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Call for Scenarios for the Society for Historical Archaeology’s 2018 Student Ethics Bowl

Example Scenarios


1. You are the laboratory director for a local Cultural Resource Management firm.  One day a woman and her lawyer walk into your lab with a few boxes of possible artifacts or replicas.  They want you to help them determine if the artifacts are real and what their insurance values might be.  The woman is in the process of a divorce and claims the “artifacts” belonged to her ex-husband who had acquired them from a trading post in the Four Corners area.  As you are talking to her lawyer, the woman pulls out a few figurines.  You notice that these are mostly whole figurine vessels, perhaps Caddoan, and that there are what look to be accession numbers on two vessels.  When you ask for provenience and proof of clear legal ownership; they began packing up.  What are the ethical dilemmas involved in this scenario and how would you handle the situation?


2. While conducting an archaeological survey for a large development project, your field crew documents several historic-period sites within the project’s area of potential effects (APE).  The results of background research and fieldwork indicate that these historical sites are probably eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The sites will be adversely affected by the project, as currently designed, and it would be necessary to resolve this adverse effect.  The project proponent is adamant that the project design cannot be changed in order to avoid these sites. You are unsure, however, what action to recommend for the historical resources.  The local federal repository does not curate historic-period archaeological collections, and so if you conduct any excavations of these sites, whatever materials you might recover, could not be curated in your state-designated facility.  What are the ethical dilemmas involved in this scenario and how would you handle the situation?


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