Code of Ethics

A set of the principles of conduct and ethical standards of the community of archaeologists in Poland.

The document was prepared and adopted by the Committee of Pra- and Pro-tohistoric Sciences of the I Faculty of the Polish Academy of Sciences on the 24 October 200.3

Social changes that have taken place in Poland in recent years have contribu-ted to the development of new patterns of behaviour, which unfortunately, do not le-ad to the preservation and consolidation of fundamental ethical standards. Too low level of legal culture, also familiar to the members of scientific and academic com-munities, combined with the underestimating of the threat of behaviour that someti-mes differs markedly from universally accepted moral standards, too often results in the phenomena of scientific misconduct, a disregard for the standards of conduct and even a significant reduction in the prestige of the law.

The Committee of Pra- and Protohistoric Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences concerned about the escalation of these negative phenomena, sees a need for clear and unanimous wording of the rules of conduct, which should guide Polish archaeologists, regardless what institutions in our country they are employed in and regardless of what is their function. This applies to rules and standards of conduct both in relation to fellow archaeologists and to society as a whole as well as to the archaeological record - the subject of our research. It should be borne in mind that this is a part of the common heritage of all of us, finite, non-renewable, irreplaceable and unfortunately steadily vanishing due to progressive destruction. All actions aimed at improving the ways of identifying, documenting and thus protecting the ar-chaeological heritage are therefore of particular importance.

The  set of principles proposed here of conduct and ethical standards were presented within the six following thematic groups:

I. Research procedures

1. An archaeologist preparing a research project should in a responsible and realistic manner, adapt methods and research procedures for the project's particular purpose. Research, both in the field and post-excavations work should be carried out to the highest achievable level, widely accepted by the scientific community and re-flecting the current state of knowledge and methodology. It is unacceptable to un-dertake research activities without the necessary professional training, both theoreti-cal and practical and not fully respecting the social and state ownership of the archa-eological heritage.

2. An archaeologist cannot start research activities in the field without ascer-taining whether in the area (on the site) someone else has carried or is carrying out research activities. In such a situation, mutual agreement is essential. On the other hand, an archaeologist cannot claim exclusive rights to excavate a specific area (site) after five years from the completion of a given excavation project.

3. During field survey and/or during excavations an archaeologist must record in complete, legible, durable and generally understandable form all the phenomena associated with the occurrence and mutual relationship of artefacts and features. The researcher cannot ignore the phenomena and facts present on the site that are not directly related to a given research project.

4. During the implementation of team research, all participants, both supervi-sing and other contractors should act fairly, on the principle of harmonious co-operation. This applies to all stages of research, both in the field and post-excavation work. In collaboration, mutual respect and respect for others’ merits and achieve-ments must be observed.

5. In the case of rescue excavations an archaeologist should co-operate with the investor, in particular by: avoiding conflicts of interest between the advisory and expert duties and undertaking contractual works, resigning the tenders, to completion of which one is not adequately prepared professionally and organizationally, using appropriate scientific, financial, and quality control systems in relation to a project.

II. Scientific publications

1. An archaeologist is obliged to publish the results of his/her research in the shortest possible time and at a sufficiently high expertise and editorial level.

2. Requests of other researchers for information on the results of research should be honoured if it does not infringe copyrights. Any use in any form of infor-mation obtained in such a way requires an indication of its source and obtaining the author's consent, and in exceptional cases, even written permission. The results of te-am research may be published only with the knowledge and consent of the other te-am members.

3. An archaeologist retains the right of priority of publication in respect to excavations led by him/her or in which he/she actively participated within a reasona-ble time not exceeding, however, a ten-year period. After this time, materials and do-cumentation should be made available to interested parties.

4. An archaeologist should observe the principles of authorship of scientific publications. The minimum criterion for co-authorship is co-operation in creating the research concept, leading it in field, undertaking analysis and interpretation of mate-rials as well as the preparation of study in the co-author's field of expertise. It is not a principle for co-authorship to have a managerial position in scientific institution or activities such as fund raising, provision of equipment, facilities etc. So-called 'h-onorary co-authorship' achieved by people not connected scientifically with the pro-ject is unacceptable. All manifestations of plagiarism consisting of the taking of so-meone else's discoveries, ideas or research methods should be considered highly re-prehensible. This also applies to the use of unpublished master's theses and students' seminary works. Any manipulations that blur the priority of discoveries should be publicly condemned.

III. Securing materials and documentation

1. The duty of an archaeologist is to ensure the proper storage of obtained materials and documentation. They should be placed in facilities properly prepared for this purpose and the maintenance of a fixed link between artefacts and their field documentation should be ensured. The manner of storing the materials should gu-arantee access to them by all concerned. We should aim to transfer materials after they are analysed to facilities that are suitable in terms of location and authorized to store them by the relevant law acts.

IV. Promotion

1. An archaeologist should undertake activities aimed at informing the public both about the results of specific research projects as well as about the general ob-jectives and methods of acquiring knowledge about prehistory by the use of various available means:
- radio and television interviews, press interviews, science press publications,
- school programmes and other educational initiatives.

V. Lecturing

1. Archaeologists working in academic institutions are responsible for reliable lecturing in terms of both theory and practice. In particular, they should introduce in-formation on the latest concepts, discoveries and scientific achievements to their co-urses, constantly updating the contents of lectures, tutorials and seminars. Teaching programmes must comprise a place for familiarizing students with the ethical princi-ples in force in their future profession. They must also provide information on inter-national conventions on the protection of cultural heritage and national laws and re-gulations governing the manner of dealing with monuments and artefacts.

VI. Laws and regulations

1. An archaeologist must not engage in or allow his/her name to be associated with activities leading to profit from the illegal trade of artefacts or other manifesta-tions of threats to the archaeological heritage, such as illegal excavations of archae-ological sites and theft of artefacts.

2. An archaeologist should prevent activities linked in any way with dishone-sty, fraud or misrepresentation in matters related to his/her profession as well as with the theft of historic artefacts. One should also express his/her disapproval of his/her work colleagues’ misbehaviour.

3. An archaeologist should not collect artefacts in the form of a private col-lection.

4. Production of replicas of artefacts should serve educational purposes only. Such replicas must be marked or destroyed after use. Only clearly and indelibly mar-ked replicas can possibly be traded. All waste generated during the production of re-plicas must be destroyed.


Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
index of texts
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology
of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Centre for Late Antique and Early Medieval Studies