Authors Name: 
Louisa Brophy Browne
NUI Galway
Classical Studies & Archaeology
Award winner

Discuss and evaluate the main points of the debate on the ethics of archaeological work in war zones and occupied territories using case studies.

Using examples from Bosnia, Iraq and Israel-Palestine, this essay examines the ethical questions raised by archaeological work in situations of occupation and war. In Bosnia and Israel, the politics of contested landscapes are often recapitulated in an archaeology of competing ethnic claims to the original or most significant historical habitation of a territory; archaeologists have not always succeeded in ensuring their works of excavation and interpretation are not simplistically utilised by powerful groups to assert control in the present day – or by others in making the case for 'reconciliation'. In Iraq, the preservation of important Mesopotamian sites and artefacts was used by invading US and British forces as part of the pretext for ongoing occupation of the country, with this emphasis on the ancient past tending to bury the country's more recent Arab heritage; the rationales of Western experts who offered their services to the occupiers are critically examined.