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Legal and Ethical Issues in Archaeological Excavation

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Archaeological sites are prone to destruction due to several causes such as natural factors, human actions and institutional activities. Usually, natural causes are gradual such as the activities of earthworm and erosion and weathering. In some instances, the natural activities may be fast especially those caused by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Institutional and human activities are fast and cause significant damages. These include activities such as construction, agricultural activities, looting, vandalism and mining activities among others. Legal and ethical principles are enacted to regulate human and institutional activities since nothing can be done to protect archaeological sites against natural calamities (Bomford & Leonard 287).

Protection of archaeological sites connotes safeguarding the archaeological sites against forces that could destroy the available information or the value attached to the site by the community (Beresford & Waterfield 31). Also, it suggests restricting the sites from unauthorized excavators irrespective of professionalism they may exercise. Since these forces are numerous and differ in nature and magnitude, there are different regulations that have been enforced in order to fully protect the archaeological sites. Whereas some of the regulations are intended to govern the use of natural resources, there are other regulations aimed at sensitizing the community on the importance of archaeological sites through education.

Just as aforementioned, the right to protect the archaeological sites is exercised by the state, public, private individuals and organizations and even the international community (Beresford & Waterfield 48). This suggests that everyone is responsible for protecting archaeological sites and archaeological objects. Due to the inadequacy of legal capacity to give full protection of the archaeological sites and cultural objects, there are voluntary stewardship programs establishes preservation ethics to instil a sense of responsibility and pride of archaeological heritage in the society (Institute of Art & Law 1).  

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