Ethical Codes and Professional Standards

Home | Index by Charles T. Keally
August 12, 2001
additions: May 27, 2006

The question of ethical codes and professional standards is one of the many questions raised by the Japanese Early Palaeolithic scandal. More specifically, Japan's lack of such standards in clear, written form has received considerable discussion. Japanese seem to feel that a person knows good ethical behavior by birth, and that, by birth, a person will behave ethically. Therefore, there is no need to write down codes of ethics. But the newspapers are overflowing with stories of grossly unethical behavior at all levels of society.

My direct experience in Japanese archaeology suggests that, at least with regard to budgets, there is a nearly universal tendency to dishonesty. Phantom workers and kickbacks are some of the ways used to "pool" money from the budget. Sometimes this money is used simply for personal gain; more often it is used to get the funds to do research or other things that the archaeologist feels must be done but cannot explain why to the sponsor.

There is also a serious problem with the lack of clear, written standards for judging who qualifies as a professional archaeologist. At least a B.A. degree in archaeology from a university is one of the requirements, but there are many exceptions to this. A considerable amount of fieldwork -- digging experience -- is important, but just how much and how important is not clear. And publications are counted, too, but there are no clear standards for judging the quality of a publication or for determining the individual's contribution to a joint publication.

In this context it should be noted that the Japanese Archaeological Association is the only truly national association for archaeologists, but its membership includes only a little over half of those people working professionally in archaeology.

This short page has some of the links I have found to such codes and standards in other countries, and this should provide material for thought among Japanese archaeologists.

Japanese Archaeological Association's Code of Ethics

The Japanese Archaeological Association now has a code of ethics on its web site: JAA Code of Ethics. According to the introduction, the JAA has been discussing the need for a code of ethics since the 1970s. The exposure of the Early Palaeolithic hoax in November 2000, however, was the impetus for action. This action began in 2002, and the basics were established in 2003. The first draft of the code was presented to the membership in 2005. The revised draft was approved at the full membership meeting in late May 2006.

(May 27, 2006)

Japanese Archaeological Association's New Member Requirements

The Japanese Archaeological Association's requirements for new members are: (1) publication of one or more books, (2) publication of one or more research articles, alone or as first author, (3) writing and publication of one or more excavation reports or exhibit books, and (4) three or more introductions of finds, research notes, book reviews or translations, but three book reviews alone will not suffice. There must be publications from at least three of these four categories. (Japanese Archaeological Association Membership List for Fiscal Year 2005, pp. vii-viii)

(May 17, 2006)


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