Heritage Conservation Advocates
A small survey on ethics, science, and the law
Should archaeologists cooperate?
By Elson T. Elizaga

I'M MAKING A SMALL SURVEY to understand what people think about ethical requirements in scientific work, particularly in archaeological research. Here is the situation:

1) Dr. Erlinda M. Burton,* president of the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA), is an archaeologist who has done research in the archaeological site called Huluga in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines since 1975.



Dr. Erlinda M. Burton at a trench made by ASP in Obsidian Hill, Huluga.

Dr. Erlinda M. Burton at a trench made by ASP in Obsidian Hill, Huluga.

2) In June 2003, the HCA discovered that the mayor of Cagayan de Oro had ordered a private contractor to bulldoze a huge portion of the Huluga Open Site, where artifacts are still found. HCA then informed the National Museum and the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines about the condition of Huluga. The National Museum lawyer assured Burton and the HCA that it would file legal charges against the mayor, since it is illegal for a person to destroy archaeological sites.

See details in "Violating the Code of Ethics of Archaeology"

3) Instead of filing charges, however, the National Museum approved a P450,000 contract between ASP and the mayor for ASP to do salvage archaeology in Huluga and at least two other sites. National Museum and ASP did not consult Burton and the HCA about the contract. When Burton learned of the arrangement in Jan. 21, 2004, she called up Leee Anthony Neri, an archaeology teacher and project director of ASP, and gave him a lecture about archaeological code of ethics. Undaunted, ASP went straight to Huluga on Oct. 29, 2004 and informed Burton that they had began digging there. They didn't even ask permission from the landowners.

4) Burton's opinion:


Do you agree with Burton? Why? Should scientists, not only archaeologists, always cooperate? What if the funding agency instructs the recipient scientists to ignore their colleagues? Does it matter if the funding agency is private, government, or foreign? What about the amount of funding? Should archaeologists accept money and work for people responsible for destroying heritage sites and objects?

Moreover, since the National Museum is under the Office of the President of the Philippines, shouldn't the National Museum implement the law** instead of cooperating with a person who has violated it?

Please send your comments to Elson T. Elizaga. Indicate your profession, agency, and years of experience, and write whether you are interested to have your views published in this site. Ideas from ASP teachers and students are welcome.

Free Vote Caster from Bravenet.com Cast your vote: Do you want Manila archaeologist to ignore local scholars when doing work in the provinces?


Lawyer reprimands ASP archaeologists

Atty. Trixie Angeles of the National Commission for Culture and Arts met HCA vice-president Antonio J. Montalván II in February 2005. Angeles said, "I told Sandy Salcedo and Victor Paz that you (Salcedo and Paz) have broken archaeological ethics in Cagayan de Oro because archaeological ethics dictates that local archaeologists always enjoy primary preference."

Salcedo and Paz, like Neri, are teachers of the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines. Following data is from the ASP faculty website:

Paz, Victor J., Ph. D.
University of Cambridge, 2001

Salcedo, Cecilio G., B.A.
University of the Philippines, Diliman, 1973

KAPI holds code of ethics workshop

The Katipunan Arkaeologist ng Pilipinas, Inc.(KAPI) held a workshop on archaeological code of ethics on October 20, 2004. Nine days later, several members of ASP -- who are also members of KAPI -- dug in Huluga without permission from landowners, and without coordinating with local archaeologists.

The Solheim Foundation Bulletin, October to December 2004 issue, has this report:

"Finally, a code of ethics the Philippine archaeological community can call its own. A workshop for the completion of the Code of Ethics was held last October 20, 2004, at the National Museum, along with the annual Katipunan Arkeologist ng Pilipinas Inc. business meeting.

"Presided over by National Museum archaeologist Amalia dela Torre, KAPI members from all over the Philippines discussed and debated the proposed code of ethics that was adapted from the codes of the Society of American Archaeologists [sic] and the Society of Professional Archaeologists [sic].

"The draft includes eight principles archaeologists should adhere to: stewardship, accountability, commercialization, public education, intellectual property, publication, records and preservation, and training. "At the end of the workshop, the proposed code was turned over to the KAPI Executive Board for fine-tuning and final approval."

The Society of American Archaeology follows the code of ethics of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, which says, partly, that an archaeologist must

  • Communicate and cooperate with colleagues having common professional interests;
  • Give due respect to colleagues' interests in, and rights to, information about sites, areas, collections, or data where there is a mutual active or potentially active research concern;

* Burton is former director of the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture (RIMCU) at Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. In August 2005, she became director of Museo de Oro, Xavier University. Her great grandfather was a Tinguian headhunter. She used to work with Louis S. B. Leakey.

** Archaeological sites are granted protection under Presidential Decree 374, amending Republic Act No. 4868, also known as "Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act".

Published by the Heritage Conservation Advocates, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, November 22, 2004. | Updated September 24, 2007. | More details about the issue in the article "Violating the Code of Ethics of Archaeology".