Archaeologists will often find themselves working with or in a culture that is unfamiliar to them. Having good ethical standards and knowledge of local and international laws help archaeologist respect and work with all kinds of communities. Working with the public and reporting archaeological finds not only help archaeologists and anthropologist understand a particular society, but by including the community with the project researchers can gain an understanding of many aspects of the community’s culture including; religious materials, structures, symbols, language, rituals, and so forth. Understanding the local culture can also help archaeologist from misunderstandings with the community that could result in a failed project.

A community’s history belongs with its citizens to be shared and preserved for future generations. At HCPC we have come across many religious materials and other grave offerings including children’s toys, vases and potted plants. Most items have remained at the grave they were placed at while others unfortunately have ended up in the pile of debris that will be thrown away. The loss of some of these items was likely due to the cemetery having been abandoned for decades. The items lost can now never be recovered and placed at their proper grave. To some these grave offerings may not appear to be anything more than an old toy or candle, but we have to remember these items are also part of this community’s history. Now with the work we are doing hopefully we can preserve the cemetery more effectively and learn the histories of the people buried there to be able to share with the community.

Hopefully by engaging the community with this project it will help the public have a better understanding of archaeology and what kind of pertinent information it can provide.

Ethics and Public Archeology

The public archaeology described by Jameson differs from the PAR approach described in McGhee, Jameson writes about how to allow equal interpretation, educating people, realizing it is a public resource and what archeology has to offer. The Participatory Action Research or PAR, McGehee writes how it is the community that has all the power and they show be the ones that lead the social change. Although both talk about the individual and the collective whole, what role archeologist play in the community and how all this is organized.
These different approaches suggest that there is an importance placed on ethics that public archeology must follow which create rules that are applied to the projects. There are ethical boundaries that archeologist follow because there is always the debate of who owns it, controls it and its interpretation.
These are some of the question found in the McGhee article that play into the criticisms and what both sides need affecting collaboration and response.
The following questions are from the communities/organizations perspectives:
• Is the researcher willing to follow the community/organization’s lead?
A researcher is not part of the community or organization but both should find common ground to work on because it is important to work together, especially since it is public archeology. However, the researcher depending on the project may not be able to follow the community/organization’s lead just due to the fact that there are so many factors involved one primarily is that the researcher is technically an outsider with an insider’s view.
• How good is the researcher at meeting deadlines?
In our case our project may not be completed because we are working on a semester time’s which means that our time is limited. The deadlines are always important especially when there is a lot of data collection and organization preparation that needs to be done.
• Can the researcher communicate in a community context?
A researcher should be able to communicate within a community context there would be not point if the people involved cannot communicate together. Misunderstanding are bound to happen and could potentially increase the inability to communicate effectively.
• What experience does the researcher have?
In our case, HCPCP, we as students have limited experience however we do have certain skills that allow us to participate in this project in the first place, we have studied and researched, gaining experience as we work.

These questions are from the researcher’s perspective:
• Does the community/organization have the capacity to participate?
The community does have the capacity to participate in this project and contribute in various aspects of it. There are things that we as “outsiders” cannot do which is gather information we as students are not privy to or organizing without the connections.
• What are the established community-based organizations, do they exist?
There are several established community-based organizations that could be of potential help such as LUPE among others that could be interested in the project, who want to understand how this will impact the community.
• What resources can the community organization contribute?
Like I had mentioned above the community can offer information that we do not have access to or did not think of. They can offer what we cannot like the families who are connected to the cemetery, their stories and involvement.
• Does the community/organization have research needs you can fulfill?
This question links to the others above as the community learns about what we are doing in the cemetery, collecting and recording information.
There will always be that debate involving the dead, although we are not digging anyone up we are entering a space (not as family or cemetery workers) that we do not belong. However, we are trying to bring the community together in another way by reidentifying or contacting families so that the history of the people buried there is not forgotten, hidden or ignored. We cannot do this without the help of the community. The community is the one that decides how far we can go with this project and how important it will become in it.


Ethics on Community Projects and What Public Archaeology Truly Stands For

This blog post is based upon the readings on ethics in public archaeology. I make references to Fred L. McGhee’s Participatory Action Research and Archaeology and John H. Jameson Jr.’s  Purveyors of the Past: Education and Outreach as Ethical Imperatives in Archaeology.

What comes to mind, when first discussing ethics and moral responsibility one takes under the context of ownership in dealing with public works, is the commitment this individual or group has established upon taking on a project. Also, what are the goals they aim to achieve in undergoing a project that consists of two or more groups?

McGhee discusses the roles project leaders take when conducting research for/by the community. Also, a direction of development for the community  must be taken into account when applying this research to academia if that is the institution in which the archaeologist(s) is being represented through. It is important to always have a clear vision and purpose that correlates to the community when working through a collaborative measure. Moreover, this method of research is better known as Participatory Action Research (PAR), aimed to establish or reform social change within the community of reach. So, it is very important for these PARs to conduct these project with and by the owners of the subject matter whether it be tangible or intangible.

Although PAR is viewed as extreme in other’s eyes, I  completely agree and support the notion of collaborative research. As archaeology has evolved dramatically since its height in the sixties, efforts have been made to modify the roles that are played by these researchers and the communities they interact with for their work. Quoted from page 216 in McGhee, “Participatory research is not a research project; it is a community organizing and/or development project of which the research is only one piece.”  McGhee emphasizes the purpose of PAR and community archaeology altogether. It is most clear that the theory and method of public archaeology is being redefined to ensure rightful ownership and decision to those who deserve it.

For our project at Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery, i believe it is important that we maintain consistency with communication and actively work through this partnership with the Hidalgo County and Edinburg city. Since day one it has been made clear that this project is to bring light to those forgotten and to reconnect any missing ties that have become of this lost at the pauper cemetery.  We must let it be known to the community of our current work through either media or publication to try and get more coverage on this project.

The differences of Public Archaeology interpretation in both Jameson and McGhee include the duties as a public figure and/or specialist while the other focuses on the complete immersion of mandate to the community. Jameson covers the purpose an archaeologist should establish when involved in public works, especially under the column of education. Mentioning the responsibility of not only completing a project to spread insight to those willing to learn but to also collaborate and speak to the community leaders such as mayors and representatives.

Misinterpretation has long been an effect of Hollywood and just a vast majority of people concluding archaeology to be a career and purpose that it truly isn’t. In this sense, i can tie this idea to McGhee in doing these projects for the sake of the people and social change. Both propose the duty of getting actively involve even if that is not the experiecne or specialty you have as an archaeologist but for  the sake of Public Archaeology it is dire to always get in contact with community leaders and officials to work together to establish something new and clear.

Both of these articles do in fact shape a better direction or at least an understanding, to what a Public Archaeology project should cover the basis on. Although i feel McGhee emphasizes more delicate matters on indigenous rights and community ownership, both him and Jameson advocate the true power and change that may come from outreach.

As McGhee most amazingly puts it on page 218, “In its most radical manifestations, PAR is about revolution.”

Ethics of Public Archaeology

Jameson describes public archaeology as allowing individuals of the community to be offered the opportunity to develop a basic understanding of archaeology through various multimedia platforms as well as involving them in archaeological projects. Participatory Action Research (PAR), described by McGhee, is shaping the social structure of the knowledge process as well as becoming self-sufficient activists.

When applying ethical principles to projects, both Jameson and McGhee give the impression that they are undoubtedly considered, however the ethical principles are not entirely implemented on projects. Public archaeologist, at an entry-level, are given standards such as maintaining basic knowledge of techniques to convey archaeological information to the public, ability to work as a team to design and implement effective public interaction, and public speaking knowledge. Public archaeologist remains hopeful the community will be involved in the projects they are invested in, though there are situations in which members of the community do not meet the same requirements, thus the data collected is interpreted differently from archaeologist to member of the community. Given this, there is potential that when community members engage in archaeological projects then this may be influential on the direction of the research with no intent of such direction.

To meet public needs, our project could implement the ideas offered by the public but continue to view our data from an archaeological standpoint. Then, not only are we allowing the public to express their opinion and assist in our research but we are also staying true to the roots of archaeological research.

The Ethics of puplic archeology

Jameson and McGhee differ in their approach to involving the communities that they are in contact with when doing research. Jameson  seeks to “arm the public” with the  historically accurate knowledge and to help the public understand the truth about cultures who Hollywood and the media has inaccurately represented by ” over sensationalizing depicions of tresure hunts (Indiana  Jones) ” . But Jameson also states that the media is not inherintly bad and  should be used as a teaching  tool “convey archeological information “We can no longer be detached from the mechanisms that convey archeological information to the public” (Jameson Pg 158). McGhee is different his  Participant action research  (PAR)  approach which seeks to directly involve the public in the research that is being conducted  and to include cultural information in identifying and interpreting the archeological record with the ultimate goal being the betterment of the coomunity. One example of the is NAGPRA which through the combined efforts of both archeologists and native tribes have successfully returned the remains of many to their people. Our project would probably fall under this category even more so if we manage to get more community support. Despite this both Jameson and McGhees would be considered highly outside the norm few years ago McGhee more so. Through out its history it has always been only archeologist more specifically the professionally trained archeologists the have interpreted the archeological record with very little input from the local communities “The would probably also object to the notion that ingenious forms of knowledge and understanding should have equal or near-equal standing to .the positive epistemologies employed by properly trained archeologists.”(McGhee pg 214). Even now archeologists will  quickly dismissed the information given to them by the native peoples . Another controversy is both Jameson and McGhee involving themselves with the public and the political I’m pact that it causes . Both Jameson and McGhee agree that archeologist can no longer be distant but must start both involving  and informing the community actively not only relying to published articles.

To some archeologist this is a breech of ethics in which PAR makes the “Researcher” subordinate themselves  to the governments of the communities. Such as wheat happen in private archeology when archeologists are given free reign over the area despite what locals want in the interest of business.

But I believe that by involving communities , researchers can hopefully disprove the many misconceptions about these peoples histories portrayed by both the media and past anthropologist  in order to be truly ethical and inform people of the truth.  Both McGhee and Jameson where as ethical as a researcher can be when involving humans both seek to inform and involve locals in their research only in different ways.  In going  forward in our own project I believe that its paramount that we keep the community informed about what exactly our research in tells especially since we are not working with inanimate objects but the graves of loved ones. We as researchers must be willing to accept help and information from the community and in turn do our best to not only inform but to better the community as a whole through our project.

Ethics of Public Archaeology

The difference between Jameson’s and McGhee’s approaches to Public archaeology are different because while one focuses more on building communities, as McGhee states on page 213 “Participant action research (PAR) refers to a research methodology which aims to transform communities fro the better and where positive social change is and explicit goal.” Jameson’s description of public archaeology attempts to use the community that they are given to help with whatever it maybe that they need help with, this can be seen especially within the first few paragraphs of his chapter/article. While they are both different, it is also apparent that they do attempt to use ethical practices during their work, however because they are working with human beings, being wholly ethical can sometimes be challenging. In McGhee’s work, he gives some ideas/guidelines as to how we should go about doing public Anthropology. These guidelines are extremely helpful in  giving ideas and ways to include communities and really make it public archaeology. While these guidelines are helpful, it is also important to keep in mind that each group of human beings is different and therefore they are going to require different things, and want to know about different things.

Public Archaeology, the PAR approach and project collaboration that responds to public needs

The readings for this week’s assignment consisted of articles written by John H. Jameson, Jr. and Fred L McGhee; two experienced archaeologists with valuable insight into working within the public sector. Their views reflect their depth of experience as public archaeologists and contain many valid points.

Jameson stated that his “colleagues are firmly committed to finding engaging and innovative ways to reach out to national and local communities and involve them in the rich diversity of human experience”. If there ever was a place where a rich diversity of human experience exists, it is here on the North American continent. Just the varied and numerous Native American tribes (each unique and different from each other) that once roamed this territory we know today as the United States is a testament to this idea. When people from the community get involved, the items uncovered help curb the romantic imagination and preconceived notions with solid ideas and actual images, therefore increasing public buy in and personal interest in seeing a project to completion.

Jameson also talked about the “development and expansion of educational archaeology in the 1980s and 1990s” and how entities such as private and public universities have “placed a high priority on establishing and promoting effective education and outreach programs”. This trend was captured here in the Rio Grande Valley during the 1990s by a group called Los Caminos Del Rio. Working in conjunction with the Texas Historical commission and supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this group developed and educational program designed to preserve the history of the Rio Grande Valley along both sides of the Rio Grande. Their goal was to encourage preservation through the creation of a bi-national heritage tourism corridor. Approximately 20 years after that, the CHAPS Program was initiated at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s legacy institution the University of Texas Pan American. The goals of the CHAPS Program reflect many that are followed by public archaeologists. The CHAPS mission is to cover the same 200 mile stretch between Laredo to Brownsville as they help to create archaeologically and historically literate citizens who are aware of their local cultural and natural history and of its importance to the future of the Rio Grande Valley.

Both authors talk about Cultural Resource Management (CRM) and their experiences with public interaction with archaeological projects. Jameson feels that “public archaeology has evolved from a definition synonymous with cultural resource management to a broader scope that included educational archaeology, and other issued which bring us closer to our anthropological roots” (154). As the 19th century and early 20th century represents an era of conservation into history preservation, I see a trend into the 21st century of folks who are interested in embracing their “anthropological roots”. As public archaeology branches out from its more privately run CRM mantra, Jameson discussed trends toward a “broader scope that included educational archaeology, public interpretation of archaeology, and a new era of Native American Archaeology” (154). As we watch present-day TV commercials such as those for services such as and 23 & Me, we see that this idea is motivating people to obtain a clear definition of exactly who they are. This will surely spark a trend of more sympathetic approaches to discovery, interpretation and preservation into presentation, public education and awareness.

McGhee discussed an experience he had with an archaeological project in Houston that pertained to an African American neighborhood called the Fourth Ward and what resulted when the project turned into a public archaeology project. Participatory Action Research (PAR) has three main goals; the most desired (it seems) of which is to achieve social change. The benefits of following this practice is that there are clear “decisional points” in the “research process”. Following these points helps the project achieve results that benefit both the community and the intended research questions.

Our project, the Hidalgo County Paupers Cemetery Project (HCPCP) is designed to develop an understanding of who and/or what type of person is buried in this particular cemetery and why. Our professor, Dr. Sarah Rowe has gone to great lengths to create this project and to lay the foundation via which her students will conduct and gather the data needed for analysis. In accordance with processes that McGhee promotes in his essay, Dr. Rowe has “partnered with communities during the research design and implementation” and will continue during the “analysis phases” as well. She has utilized local officials as advisors and made sure that we are working together for a mutually beneficial outcome.

With regard to McGhee’s experience with the Houston project, there were some old and lingering bad feelings with some of the community members that caused conflict within the project as a whole. This can be viewed as a problem with getting the public involved as “memories of an old injustice can surface and individual agendas of outside activists can derail even the best conceptualized research efforts”. I found it fascinating how toward the end of the Fourth Ward Neighborhood project, McGhee was viewed as an ‘Uncle Tom’ figure when his intentions were always sincere and clear and unfortunately this project only continued to become more difficult to complete. So essentially, getting the public involved in this case turned into a negative. We don’t expect that to be the case with the HCPCP. Our efforts are to record the number of burials in this potter’s field, to identify those buried there, and to uncover who they were, where they were from, and why were they buried in this particular field. Once more community members become involved, we hope to obtain oral history interviews and other primary source documents to help us fill our canvas with the names and faces of those who are resting in peace in the Hidalgo County Paupers Cemetery.


The Ethics of Public Archaeology

The Society for American Archaeology’s “Principals of Archaeological Ethics” were originally developed in the early 1990s. These outlined nine principles that archaeologists are to use “in negotiating the complex responsibilities they have to archaeological resources, and to all who have an interest in these resources or are otherwise affected by archaeological practice (Lynott and Wylie 1995:8).” The nine principles are as follows:

  1. Stewardship
  2. Accountability
  3. Commercialization
  4. Public Education and Outreach
  5. Intellectual Property
  6. Public Reporting and Publication
  7. Records and Preservation
  8. Training and Resources
  9. Safe Educational and Workplace Environments (this principle was added in 2016)

(It should be noted that this is just one set of archaeological principles developed by a professional organization. SHA, AIA, and RPA each have their own, but with some commonalities.)

Public archaeology projects speak to a number of these ethical principles, including Stewardship, Accountability, and Public Education and Outreach, and this ethical relevance has always been one element in favor of conducting archaeological projects with a public component. Recent examinations of archaeological practice, however, have challenged archaeologists to think more critically about how they apply these ethical principals or assume archaeologists to be the only ones who can reasonably care for or adjudicate meaning of archaeological resources.

The principal of stewardship, in particular, can become problematic in so much as some archaeologists interpret it to mean that only they have the right to interpret or care for sites and artifacts. Participatory Action Research (PAR) is an approach to inquiry that recognizes local knowledge has value and argues that research should be conducted with a goal of positive social change. Though developed in the fields of adult education and public health, this approach aligns quite well with the more engaged forms of public archaeology, including indigenous archaeology and collaborative archaeology.

The question for you, then is: How does the public archaeology described by Jameson differ from the PAR approach described by McGhee? Do these different approaches suggest that ethical principals are commonly embraced or applied in projects, or does a differential importance given to ethics shape the nature of a public archaeology project? How might we take the criticisms and categories outlined by McGhee (see in particular pp. 216-219) to make our project more collaborative and responsive to public needs? Feel free to think radically and critically.

Lynott, M. J. and A. Wylie, editors (1995). Ethics and Archaeology: Challenges for the 1990s. Society for American Archaeology, Washington D.C.