ARCHAEOLOGISTS ON CONSERVATION: HOW CODES OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS TREAT CONSERVATION
SUSAN I. ROTROFF
The concept of stewardship around which the documents discussed above are built derives, ultimately, from the model of ecological conservation (Lipe 1974). As is clear from reports of discussions that took place as the SAA was drafting its Principles, many archaeologists thought of stewardship primarily in terms of sites, not objects. Controversy revolved around the question of whether archaeologists could responsibly excavate sites that are not threatened, or whether, since excavation is destruction, they should conserve those sites for future archaeologists (Lynott and Wylie 1995, 28–32; Lynott 1997). No one seems to have even mentioned issues of object conservation, but, following the ecological model,“conservation” must apply to the whole ecosystem, down to its smallest component. Stewardship therefore implies serious commitment to object conservation, even if this may not have been foremost in the minds of those framing the documents. Whether codes express minimal standards or maximal goals, they are only written documents. Human beings have to interpret and apply them, and the language of the archaeological codes, principles, and standards makes conservation a primary responsibility of archaeologists.
My thanks to Jeffrey Maish for suggesting this topic to me and for reading a draft of this article. I am grateful also to the many people who helped me gather the information summarized here: Steven Koob, Claire Lyons, Mark Meister, Naomi Norman, and Bob Sonderman were especially helpful. Special thanks are due Alison Wylie, who, closely involved with the development of the SAA Principles and with archaeological ethics, made suggestions that substantially improved the content of this article in those areas.