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Ethical issues in archaeology.

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Book Reviews
John Dupré. New York: Oxford University Press.
2003. 138 pp. ISBN 0-19-280337-9. $19.95 (cloth).
For many physical anthropologists, the demands
on our time often preclude the opportunity to read
outside of our respective specialties, let alone outside of our discipline. One important body of literature relevant to what we often teach (especially in
introductory classes) is the history and philosophy of
science as it pertains to evolution. Dupré’s book is
one such volume, presenting a philosopher’s view of
the importance of evolution. As Dupré clearly notes
early on, the goal of this book is to present a succinct
and accessible volume, addressing the influence of
evolution on major issues, such as the existence of
God, the relationship of humans to other organisms,
and human behavior—in other words (p. 1), “Why
should we (non-biologists) care about evolution?”
These topics are the focus of Dupré’s book, and are
each addressed in separate chapters: Chapter 4 addresses evolution and the decline of theism; Chapter
5, the relationship of humans to other organisms;
Chapter 6, evolution and human nature; and Chapter 7, race and gender.
In the first few chapters, Dupré provides a basic
description of evolution: “a set of very general propositions” (p. 12), including 1) life on Earth has
changed over time, 2) complexity is derived from
more simple forms, and 3) most organisms share
common ancestors. He also emphasizes that the core
propositions of evolution are “beyond serious question” (p. 12), and “not much open to debate” (p. 41).
Dupré is an unapologetic proponent of empiricism
and of a naturalistic perspective, which he describes
as “anti-supernaturalistic” (p. 42). He also argues
that evolution has played a major role in “undermining prescientific supernaturalistic metaphysical
views . . . replacing them with the naturalistic metaphysics assumed by most contemporary philosophers” (p. 60). The idea that evolution provided the
final piece of evidence in rejecting a theistic worldview (Chapter 4) is exactly what causes fear and
apprehension among creationists. In fact, Dupré argues that attempts to reconcile evolution with theism (as seen in Stephen Jay Gould’s work, among
others, and often seen in introductory physical anthropology textbooks) are futile. Although I suspect
many physical anthropologists would agree with
Dupré, we (including myself) often adhere to the
idea (in the classroom) that evolution and religion
are congruent, which is helpful when presenting
evolution to new and/or skeptical students.
Dupré’s volume is concise, and succeeds in placing
evolution in a broad philosophical context. However,
the absence of references is a major weakness. The
“Further Reading” section, organized by chapter at
the end of the book, is insufficient, as there are many
points Dupré makes for which I would have liked a
citation. The absence of references also impedes one
of the stated goals of this book: to address “big ideas”
for a wide audience. Without specialized knowledge
in evolutionary biology and/or physical anthropology, many of Dupré’s statements could easily be
interpreted as representing consensus ideas, when,
to my knowledge, they are not. For example, Dupré
argues that “most genetic changes are harmful” (p.
108). To which type of genetic changes does Dupré
refer? Chromosomal mutations? Point mutations?
Also, he states that “it used to be popular” (p. 108) to
argue that the origins of sexual reproduction were
related to the benefit of genetic recombination and
increased variation. Although these statements may
be accurate in some circles within the life sciences
and/or philosophy, without references, they are
weakened. I recognize the desire not to overwhelm
the reader with numerous references, as well as the
cost and space considerations related to having intext references and an extended “Literature Cited”
section, but the absence of references makes the
book a challenge.
Having criticized the absence of references, it
could have an (I assume) unintended benefit: an
excellent use for this book would be as a supplementary text in an upper-division or graduate seminar
on evolution. It could serve as a point of discussion
and as a source of questions for further investigation. To be fair, as this is a philosophy book about
evolution, and not a biology book, this function (as a
source for eliciting thought and discussion) is important, and is a major role of philosophy.
My primary disagreement with Dupré is in the
area of understanding human behavior, as he argues that evolution is of limited use in illuminating
human nature (p. 2 and Chapter 6). He also makes
the argument (similar to that of Jonathan Marks)
that the genetic similarity between humans and
chimpanzees has little, if any, meaning (p. 96), especially in attempting to understand the biology of
human behavior. I agree that the use of analogy for
discussing human behavior has its limits (e.g., making a leap from invertebrates to humans in terms of
sexual aggression), but the evolution of similar behaviors among closely related organisms can be
quite informative. When contemplating human sexuality, it is interesting that there are similarities
among some primate species, including humans and
bonobos, to which Dupré does allude later in the
book (p. 118). Whether discussing human sexuality
or the evolution of care-giving in hominids, a broad
primate perspective can be quite helpful in understanding the evolution of human behaviors.
As all “good” books should do, Dupré’s book made
me think. I found myself constantly thinking about
my research, how I teach, and what I think about
evolution. With my interests in variation and taxonomy, Dupré’s discussion of “traits” and how one (analytically) breaks down an organism into its constituent units (p. 39), as well as his discussion of the
“ecotype” (Chapter 7) as a concept with which to
address intraspecific variation, were quite useful
and interesting. In this context, Dupré’s book is a
successful piece of work, eliciting thought and contemplation. Despite my criticisms, I found Dupré’s
book interesting and provocative, especially as I am
G. Grupe and J. Peters. Leidorf, Germany: Verlag
Maria Leidorf GmbH. 2003. 286 pp. ISBN
3-89646-616-X. €66.50 (cloth).
This volume arose as a publication of symposium
papers presented at the Anthropological Collection
Centennial Workshop in München in 2002. The topics covered in the book’s 19 chapters are varied,
including studies of human and nonhuman skeletal
remains and teeth, and address issues as diverse as
evolution, paleopathology, paleodiet, paleoecology,
and paleogeography. The authors also examine advances in biochemistry as they apply to skeletal
remains, including dental microwear, micromorphometry, and bone isotopes. Much to their credit,
the editors drew together a variety of viewpoints
from around the world, including authors from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Yugoslavia, Spain, and Canada.
The chapters are largely focused on the relationship between domesticated animals and humans,
and on the application of new biochemical techniques. While both subjects are appealing and in
many cases complementary, the book itself is not
organized around these themes. Instead, it is organized into such broad and vague sections as “The
Socio-Cultural Aspect and Modern Implications,”
“Decyphering Ancient Bone,” and “The Research Potential of Bioarchaeological Collections.”
With respect to the goals of the book, the chapter
by Wiesemüller and Rothe stands out for its succinct, strongly stated plea for maintaining bioarchaeological collections. They clearly make the point
that in order to understand the phylogeny, morphology, and lifestyles of fossil primates, scientists must
study ontogeny, individual variation, and the functional morphology of modern populations. Only by
doing so will researchers be able to properly account
for biodiversity, allowing them to build appropriate
models and avoid false or unnecessary splitting of
taxa. The authors stress the fundamental need to
maintain large collections of modern primate skele-
an anthropologist and not a philosopher. Dupré’s is
a useful volume for those interested in the philosophy of science and the role of evolution in contemporary thought.
Department of Social Sciences
Front Range Community College
Fort Collins, Colorado
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20090
Published online 19 November 2004 in Wiley InterScience
tons in many regions around the world to ensure
widespread access to these valuable resources.
Several other authors point out some of the difficulties with utilizing and maintaining bioarchaeological collections. Zeder points out that research on
animal domestication came to a virtual standstill for
several decades due to political unrest in the Fertile
Crescent region of Southwest Asia, while Bender
discusses the lamentable lack of storage for bioarchaeological collections and personnel to maintain
and study them. Bender notes that animal bones,
seen as less important than artifacts in today’s overcrowded museums, are often thrown away, despite
their potential for providing new scientific insights.
Mikić describes a lamentable lack of cooperation
between archaeologists and bioarchaeologists working in Serbia, resulting in the loss of countless skeletal specimens and research opportunities. LaluezaFox stresses the ample and valuable resources
hidden in existing collections, both with respect to
developing scientific techniques designed to meet
new analytical challenges and in terms of the potential results. Unfortunately, the reluctance by museums and collection facilities to allow destructive
tests may prevent such research. Similarly, Nelson
and Nelson point out one reason for the lack of
synthetic research in bioarchaeological studies: researchers are not given access to some collections.
The problem of access is in part due to the difficulties of funding modern museum operations, which
are tied to the destructive effects of tourism, particularly with respect to local economic development.
Several chapters clearly emphasize the importance and sometimes surprising effects of bioarchaeological research on modern life; however, these
articles are not contained in the “The Socio-Cultural
Aspect and Modern Implications” section. For example, Nelson and Nelson graphically demonstrate the
impact of research on modern iconography and the
local cultural identity of the people of Chepen, Peru.
Following archaeological research in the area, a
statue known as La Sacerdotista (a representation
of a late Moche priestess) was erected along the
Pan-American Highway. In a similar vein, using
analyses of faunal remains and paleodrainage systems in the region, Peters and von den Driesch theorize that the climate of the Eastern Sahara has
gone from hyperarid to semiarid to hyperarid over
time. The modern-day applications of this research
are clear, given ongoing climatic shifts: precipitation
in the area is currently on the rise, which may allow
the reintroduction of game herbivores to the Wadi
Howar region.
A hidden strength of the book can be found in
several unrelated articles that convincingly demonstrate the utility of biochemical techniques in bioarchaeological research. Burton and Price argue that
Ba/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios reflect the primary source of
calcium and the environmental availability of these
elements rather than variations in proportion in the
diet, and that these ratios can be used to discriminate between individuals from different geographic
regions. Grupe et al. use stable isotope analyses and
human morphology to draw conclusions regarding
lifestyles during the Neolithic transition, while Dittman applies histomorphometric techniques in an
attempt to discriminate between species. Gügel examines microwear and abrasion in human teeth to
investigate the shift from a meat-rich diet to a diet
more reliant on plants. Garrelt and Wiechmann extracted microbial DNA from 6th and 14th century
Bavarian skeletons. Several of these yielded sequences consistent with the plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, providing support for a proveniencebased hypothesis that the remains were those of
plague victims. Taken as a group, these articles
demonstrate useful applications of biochemical
analyses and provide strong evidence in favor of
maintaining bioarchaeological collections.
At times this volume is difficult to read, largely
due to the inherent difficulties of translating one
language into another. Syntactical and grammatical
errors scattered throughout the book are occasionally distracting. The topics are discussed in varying
degrees of depth, so the overall effect is somewhat
uneven. The quality of the graphics, like the text,
Zimmerman, Karen D. Vitelli, and Julie Hollowell-Zimmer. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
2003. 300 pp. ISBN 0-7591-0271-6. $34.95 (paper).
Archaeological ethics have become a field of increasing concern in the profession, as evidenced by
the formation of the World Archaeological Congress
in 1987, passage of NAGPRA in 1990, debate about
Kennewick Man, and worldwide attention to the
Taliban’s destruction of the giant stone Buddhas in
the Bamiyan Valley, to name only the most obvious
examples. The range of issues that are recognized
today as “ethical matters” is a reflection archaeolo-
varies, although consistency within chapters makes
this a minor issue.
The volume seems poorly organized and unfocused, with chapters focusing on pure “how-to”
methodology (e.g., Hillson and Antoine’s discussion
of microscopic techniques for studying bones and
teeth), hypothesis-driven literature reviews (e.g.,
Lalueza-Fox’s examination of authentication protocols in ancient DNA studies), and data-rich analytical chapters (e.g., Zeder’s study of goat and sheep
domestication) arranged in a seemingly haphazard
fashion. Links between chapters are essentially nonexistent, making the lack of a concluding statement
by the editors particularly regrettable. For example,
Dittman’s histomorphometric discrimination of species clearly has strong ties to Sambraus’ chapter
concerning the difficulty of discerning breeds skeletally, yet the opportunity to draw connections between these chapters was not taken. Furthermore,
several chapters do not provide explicit information
explaining their relevance to the stated goals of the
book, omissions that contribute to the sense of poor
organization. Reorganization of the various chapters, combined with a stronger emphasis on each
one’s relevance to the stated goal of the volume,
would have greatly improved the usefulness and
flow of this book.
In general, Decyphering Ancient Bones provides
some insights into recent research accomplished using skeletal collections curated in research facilities
and museums. However, like many symposium-inspired volumes, the value of this book lies in its
presentation of data of interest to specialists in various topics (e.g., the history of animal husbandry) or
analytical methods (e.g., micromorphometry).
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Central Identification Laboratory
Hickam AFB, Hawaii
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20091
Published online 19 November 2004 in Wiley InterScience
gy’s growing self-reflexivity in the face of many challenges and dilemmas, some with baggage going back
decades and even to the beginning of the field (see
Chapters 1 and 2).
Ethical Issues in Archaeology creatively and sensitively addresses ethics as “an ongoing discussion of
debate [about] the relationships of archaeology and
archaeologists to other, often quite different approaches to the past, to other groups’ ethics, and to
the many contexts in which these occur” (p. xiii). The
editors argue for “active ethics,” i.e., an “awareness
that essentially everything we do as professionals
has ethical implications” (p. xvi). And various of the
authors note that ethics are always in flux, formed
by historical context, and profitably debated by each
generation of scholars.
The volume is usefully divided into four sections,
“Where Archaeological Ethics Come From,” “Responsibilities to the Archaeological Record,” “Responsibilities to Diverse Publics,” and “Responsibilities to Colleagues, Employees, and Students.”
Within these sections are many chapters addressing
topics rarely treated in classroom curricula, such as
the relationships of archaeologists to artifact collectors (Chapter 9), the ethics of shipwreck archaeology
(Chapter 5), the ethical imperative of education and
public outreach (Chapter 12), dealing with the media (Chapter 13), safety concerns of fieldwork (Chapter 15), what we are really teaching in archaeological field schools (Chapter 16), gender inequities in
the profession (Chapter 17), the ethics of research
knowledge (Chapter 18), and the actual codes of
professional conduct (Chapters 2 and 19, Appendix,
and throughout the volume).
Other chapters deal with more familiar topics but
in productively meaningful ways. The international
scale of looting for the antiquities market (including
museums) is contrasted with what Julie HollowellZimmer calls “low-end looting” (Chapter 4) in which
the products from undocumented excavations are
not immediately sent to the upscale market. In the
case of impoverished peasant looters, HollowellZimmer challenges us to consider that if “archaeologists want to stop subsistence digging, perhaps
they have an ethical responsibility to offer economic
alternatives to communities.” In other words, archaeology cannot be solely and self-gratifyingly focused on excavation of the past; there must be consideration of the contemporary context of our
research venues.
Museums are well-treated in this volume, with
insightful questions and chilling data. Beyond the
international codes now governing responsible museums’ acquisition policies in terms of unprovenienced archaeological objects, there is the problem
of space for these collections. Archaeological projects
themselves are generating collections at a rate that
surpasses the ability of museums to curate them:
how should decisions be made about which collections to accept or decline (Chapter 6)? And curation
extends beyond the ancient object itself to include all
of the records from the archaeological project (Chapter 8). It is ethically mandatory to plan for the longterm curation of all materials from archaeological
projects, yet to do so requires significant funding,
not to mention pre-excavation protocols (Chapter 8).
More archaeologists work in cultural resource
management (CRM) than in universities. These col-
leagues must be business managers in addition to
scholars who, furthermore, are in constant contact
with descendant communities (e.g., Chapter 11), including indigenous groups, as part of their routine
work (Chapter 7). Much of this volume is concerned
with these relationships between archaeologists and
the public, an issue of paramount importance in the
United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
and other countries where indigenous communities
are actively concerned with the excavation of archaeological sites, particularly when human remains are present (Chapters 10 and 14). As a whole,
the volume takes the ethical stance that primary
responsibility is to indigenous peoples whose cultural heritages we seek to understand (see, especially, Chapters 10 and 14) vs., for instance, the
position of UNESCO that privileges “world heritage”
(heritage as the patrimony of all humankind, not
just the nation where it is located or the descendant
community; but see p. 154).
There are no easy answers to the ethical problems
that are an intrinsic part of archaeology in the contemporary world. The only way to advance equity
and science in tandem is through acceptance of responsibility to living peoples as well as the deceased
who constitute the traditional object of study for
archaeologists. Constant academic discussion of ethics and good-will engagement of local communities
will go far to advance a healthy future for our profession.
This volume should be required reading for all
archaeologists, their students, and biological anthropologists working with human remains from archaeological sites. Ethical Issues in Archaeology is
an invaluable teaching tool because of the broad and
careful selection of topics, balanced treatment by the
authors, and provision of discussion questions and
further reading recommendations. The volume is so
comprehensive that it can readily form the basis for
an entire semester’s coursework, and such a course,
moreover, should be required in every archaeology
program. The volume editors, the Society for American Archaeology, and AltaMira Press are to be congratulated for so effectively addressing this necessary topic.
Department of Anthropology
University of Illinois
Urbana, Illinois
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20092
Published online 19 November 2004 in Wiley InterScience (www.
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