Ethics is the study of moral philosophy, which helps us to decide what is right and to act accordingly. Moral philosophy can be viewed as the abstract and ethics as the application – where abstract concepts may become very real indeed.

Ethics and the law are not the same, but they are related. The law deals with situation in which a government has decided that the issues involved are of such importance that rules and sanctions are needed. Ethics pick up where the law leaves off – there is more to ethics than complying with the law, and are applied to the conduct of accredited professionals who sign up to a professional code such as CIfA’s.

This Practice Paper is a starting point to help archaeologists develop awareness of ethical issues in the profession. It examines what ethics are and what comprises ethical behaviours, and then, using specific case studies relevant to archaeology, takes the reader through a series of questions and discussion as to how these issues could be addressed. The case studies were developed by a Working Group of CIfA members appointed by the Advisory Council.

Kate Geary, our Head of Professional Development and Practice says:
‘This is a very important and timely practice paper and provides an important CPD resource for our members. All professionals have to deal with ethics as part of their day-to-day lives, juggling conflicting priorities to reach the right decision….and accredited professionals more so as they have signed up to be accountable for their actions under a Code of conduct. This paper provides some useful insights into what to consider when navigating ethical dilemmas. The application and regular assessment of professional ethics is a key part of the proposal for the assessment of a Chartered Archaeologist grade.’

The Practice Paper is available free of charge to all members on the members section of the CIfA website ( Hard copies are available on request from