The Realm of Values of Estonian archaeologists/Eesti Arheoloogide Vaartusmaailm

By Livin, Liis | Estonian Journal of Archaeology, June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Realm of Values of Estonian archaeologists/Eesti Arheoloogide Vaartusmaailm


Livin, Liis, Estonian Journal of Archaeology


Introduction

Topics concerning the relationship between archaeology and ethics are discussed all over the world. Estonian archaeologists have followed these societal developments and begun to ponder over the ethics of archaeology. One of the markers of such a development is the compilation and adoption of a code of ethics of Estonian archaeology--"Ethical principles of an archaeologist" (EPA) (1). It is a sign that archaeologists use the outputs of practical ethics to make their work more efficient and reason-based. The code embodies the idea of an ethical archaeology, which is a promise to archaeologists themselves, to their colleagues and to the society to behave in an ethical manner. Ethical behaviour is composed of numerous moral principles. Abiding by those principles should lead to the best possible practices and behaviour. That, however, requires knowledge about values.

Having been part of the process of creating the code of ethics (see Livin 2008) I have realized that the theme of ethics in archaeology needs to evolve to a new and deeper level-the level of values. Archaeologists have an important and responsible role in society as interpreters of cultural heritage and creators of knowledge. Their narrations about the past facilitate the creation and uphold of national identity and memory. Thus, the moral dimension of an archaeologist's profession derives largely from his/her responsibilities towards the public. This is probably the primary reason why an archaeologist should be ethically fit. The president and founder of the Institute of Global Ethics, Dr. Rushworth M. Kidder states that most wrongdoings arise because actions are out of sync with values either with an individual's inner values or with values we can reasonably take for granted in the community at large. This incongruity arises because those values have remained more or less undefined (Kidder 2003, 43).

This article seeks to map out the value system of Estonian archaeologists and simultaneously bring out the most important professional values of archaeologists. For conceptualizing and defining "value", I will primarily rely on Edgar H. Schein's (2004) model of culture and Milton Rokeach's theoretical standpoints presented in 1973 and 1979.

Even though the current article aims to observe and discuss the normative and individual value system of archaeologists in Estonia, the goal of this paper is not to evaluate whether Estonian archaeologists behave ethically or not. Also, the results brought out in this study only reflect the situation in Estonia and without similar research conducted in other countries, it is not possible to compare the value systems of archaeologists from different regions. While this sort of study would be highly beneficial and would help put the results of the current article in a more international context, not enough research has been carried out on this topic in order to make broader conclusions about the values and ethical behaviour among European archaeologists in general.

Theoretical background and definition of values

The study of values in archaeology is a relatively new subject matter. In archaeological literature the topic is mostly understood in relation to the value of archaeological objects or phenomena as a source of information. Less attention is paid to the values of archaeologists themselves and archaeology's realm of values as a whole. The relationship between values and archaeology has mainly been under observation from the standpoint of heritage protection (e.g. Mathers et al. 2004; Cooper et al. 2005). In America and Australia the topic is closely related to indigenous people (e.g. Byrne 1991; Layton 1994; Strang 1997). Usually these works deal with cultural identity and its archaeological acknowledgement through the concepts of the past, usage of the past, value-conflicts, ethical responsibilities, etc. In Estonia, the research which is the basis of the current article, is the first attempt to study the values of archaeologists, in the hope of creating a pathway for future studies in this field (see Livin 2010).

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