Ethical Reflections on the Study of the Ancient Near East

  • Cécile Michel Archéologies et Sciences de l’Antiquité, CNRS, Nanterre, France
Keywords: Assyriology, Near East, cultural heritage, researcher ethic, antiquities trafficking, war, human rights
Language(s): French


Assyriology covers disciplines that concern the study of the ancient Near East, and more specifically the period and the geographic area defined by the use of cuneiform writing. Archaeologists, historians and art historians who conduct research in this field work in countries at war or in countries that do not respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are confronted with situations that affect their daily work. To better understand these situations, it is essential to understand the recent history of these countries, the role played by Western researchers in the rediscovery of antiquity, and the relationship of local politicians and populations to their past. In 2003, Assyriologists created the International Association for Assyriology to better address the situation in the Near East, and since 2014, they have reacted through official statements, before reflecting on the ethical behaviour of researchers. This concerns respect for the laws of the countries under study, cooperation with local scientists, the training of future generations and the well-being of the workforce employed on archaeological excavation sites. It concerns the means to be implemented for the safeguarding and restoration of cultural heritage, without cooperating with dictatorial regimes. Finally, the ethical behaviour of the researcher depends on the transmission of knowledge to the public, and in particular information to potential buyers about the danger of contributing to the trafficking of antiquities.

How to Cite
Michel C. Ethical Reflections on the Study of the Ancient Near East. Can. J. Bioeth. 2019;2:138-45.