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code & standards


The Register of Professional Archaeologist’s Code of Conduct and Standards of Research apply to Registrants (hereinafter referred to as “you” or “your”) in any situation in which your position and authority as an archaeologist is invoked or implied. By applying for and becoming a Registrant, you agree to comply with the Code and are responsible for ensuring your conduct is in compliance with the Code. Intentional breach of the Code or unintentional breach as a result of negligence may result in disciplinary procedures through the Register’s grievance process.


The Code of Conduct is based on two guiding principles that require Registrants to Comply with Applicable Laws and Practice Respectful Conduct and Candor. The Standards of Research Performance are based on one guiding principle that requires Registrants to Adhere to Standards of Archaeological Research.

Principle No. 1: Comply with Applicable Laws

You shall comply with existing and applicable public federal, state, local, tribal, indigenous, and international law, agency rules and regulations regarding safe work environments, harassment (including that which is related to age, sex, gender, or orientation, or any other applicable protected class), discrimination,  gender and sexual violence, antiquities, custodianship or curation of archaeological collections, fraud, deceit, bribery, slander, plagiarism, permits for archaeological work, confidentiality laws, and/or other laws pertinent to archaeology or your position as an archaeologist (referred to hereafter as “Applicable Laws”). For the purpose of the Code and Standards, confidential information is defined as information about archaeological site locations and information that is restricted from public distribution by applicable state, federal, or international law. When an existing and Applicable Law conflicts with the Code of Conduct or Standards of Research, the Applicable Law shall govern.

Principle No. 2: Practice Respectful Conduct and Candor

You shall treat everyone with dignity and respect. You shall foster a professional working environment, free from illegal, unethical, harassing, degrading, or demoralizing behavior to others. You shall act with candor to the archaeological community by being truthful, honest, and forthright regarding archaeological matters. Further, you shall not disclose confidential archaeological site location information from the archaeological record to the public.

Principle No. 3: Adhere to Standards of Archaeological Research

You shall design, participate in, or conduct projects that will add to the understanding of past cultures and/or that will develop better theories, methods, or techniques for interpreting the archaeological record. You shall design and conduct projects that will engage with descendent and indigenous communities when appropriate and permissible. You shall respect the materials recovered during an archaeological investigation, such as materials, collected materials, artifacts, archaeological materials, cultural materials, and material collections (hereafter, “Archaeological Collections”. You shall comply with local, regional, and national guiding standards that aim to minimize effect to the archaeological resource base.


This Code of Conduct shall apply to Registrants and non-Registrants who are members in good standing of any organization that has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement with the Register to utilize the Register’s Grievance process for investigating violations of this Code by their members.

1.       Comply with Applicable Laws

1.1      You shall understand and comply with all Applicable Laws, including, but not limited to, ensuring all necessary government permits and necessary permissions from landowners have been acquired for all projects in which you participate.

1.2      You shall support and comply with the terms of the UNESCO Convention and all pertinent following conventions on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of Archaeological Collections, as adopted by the General Conference, 14 November 1970, Paris.

1.3      You shall notify the Register’s Grievance Coordinator, in writing, email accepted, within 48 hours of being notified that you are under investigation for alleged violations of Applicable Laws by law enforcement and/or other appropriate agencies of competent jurisdiction. Once complete, the outcome of the investigation will be reviewed by the Grievance Coordinator. The Grievance Coordinator will then follow the Grievance Procedures Manual regarding your status, which may result in no action, censure, or termination of your status as a Registrant. If you fail to notify the Register within 48 hours of your knowledge of being investigated, your Registrant’s status will be permanently terminated.

2.       Respectful Conduct and Candor

2.1      You shall honor and comply with the spirit and letter of the Register’s Grievance Procedures, including cooperation with Grievance investigations.

2.2      You shall report knowledge of violations of the Code by a Registrant to the Grievance Coordinator.

2.3      You shall not abuse your position and/or authority to violate any part of the Code or to coerce any other person to engage in conduct that would violate the Code.

2.4      You shall not retaliate against any person for reporting a violation of the Code or for cooperating with a Grievance investigation.

2.5      You shall not obstruct a Grievance investigation against any Registrant. If you are under investigation by the Register’s Grievance Procedures, you shall cooperate with the investigation.

2.6      You shall exercise reasonable care to prevent the release or use of confidential site location or sensitive information, unless required by Applicable Laws or in cooperation with a Grievance investigation.

2.7      You shall respond to reasonable requests for non-confidential information from colleagues, third parties or the media, as appropriate based on contractual requirements and in compliance with other provisions of the Code.

2.8      You shall refuse to comply with any request or demand of an employer or client that conflicts with the Code, Applicable Laws, or any Grievance investigation.

2.9      You shall inform an employer or client upon encountering archaeological challenges beyond your own qualifications and make recommendations for additional expertise or additional resources.

2.10   You shall not make exaggerated, misleading, or unwarranted statements about archaeological matters that might misinform others or that might induce others to engage in unethical or illegal activity.

2.11   You shall not knowingly be involved in the recovery or excavation of archaeological resources or human remains for commercial exploitation, as defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Further, you shall not knowingly be employed by or contract with an individual or entity that recovers or excavates archaeological resources or human remains for commercial exploitation. You shall not allow the use of your name or support for any recovery or excavating of archaeological resources or human remains for commercial exploitation.

2.12   You shall not engage in the buying or selling of archaeological resources or provide an appraisal or identification of archaeological collections to someone who has the intention of engaging in commercial exploitation, either through the black market, commercial auction houses, private collectors, or other means.

2.13   You shall not discredit others’ work for personal gain or vengeance.

2.14   You shall not misrepresent or provide false archaeological data, including, but not limited to reasons for personal, client, project, or financial gain.

2.15   You shall honor reasonable and lawful requests from qualified colleagues for information on research results, if consistent with the other provisions of the Code and Applicable Laws.

2.16   You shall give credit for work done by others, including students and staff tasked with analyses or writing sections of documents. You shall not knowingly plagiarize research in oral or written form.

2.17   You shall be objective and respectful in performing peer reviews.

2.18   You shall not give a professional opinion, make a public report, or give legal testimony involving archaeological matters without being as thoroughly informed as might reasonably be expected in the circumstances.

2.19   You shall avoid conflicts of interest.


These Standards of Research Performance shall apply to Registrants and non-Registrants who are members in good standing of any organization that has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement with the Register to utilize the Register’s Grievance process for investigating violations of these standards by their members.

3.       Standards of Archaeological Research

3.1         You shall assess the adequacy of your qualifications, including practical training, for the demands of each project. You are encouraged to minimize your inadequacies by acquiring additional expertise, bringing in associates with the needed qualifications, or scaling the scope of the research to fit within your qualifications. You shall not undertake any research that affects the archaeological resource base for which you are not qualified.

3.2      You shall develop, or review and cite, if previously developed, the appropriate background context for each project. Your background context shall include relevant previous and ongoing archaeological research, such as historic documentation, ethnohistorical sources, museum collections, and oral histories, which is scaled appropriately to the undertaking of each project.

3.3      You shall strive to include descendant communities, stakeholders, and the interested public as an integral part of any dissemination plan for archaeological research or project, as appropriate and where permissible. You shall consult or collaborate with descendent or indigenous communities and stakeholders for input and knowledge where applicable and appropriate and unless directed otherwise by an agency of competent jurisdiction that is undertaking its own government-to-government consultation.

3.4      You shall develop or perform your work under a scientific plan of research that specifies the objectives of the project, employs suitable methods, and provides for appropriate use of the resource base (whether such base consists of an excavation site or of Archaeological Collections) consistent with the objectives of the project.

3.5      You shall ensure the availability of adequate and competent staff, necessary support facilities, and funding for curatorial facilities that meet the requirements of this Code and the scale and complexity of each project.

3.6      You shall maintain an appropriate system for identifying and recording the provenience of Archaeological Collections.

3.7      You shall fully and accurately describe and justify the methods employed in data collection in accordance with Applicable Laws such as environmental or cultural features, depositional strata, and significant stratigraphic and/or associational relationships among Archaeological Collections, other specimens, and cultural and environmental features.

3.8      You shall ensure all records are intelligible to other archaeologists and if terms lacking a common, consistent meaning within the field are used, then they should be clearly defined.

3.9      You shall, insofar as possible, consider the interests of other future researchers (for example, upper levels of a site should be scientifically excavated and recorded whenever feasible, even if the focus of the project is on underlying levels).

3.10   You shall properly handle the discovery of human remains during the course of archaeological research in accordance with all Applicable Laws that hold jurisdiction over the area where the discovery was made.

3.11   You shall follow best practices of the applicable region or subfield, or the standards of the agency of competent jurisdiction if a project is using a strategy of no-collection and in-field analysis.

3.12   You shall not generate Archaeological Collections or digital data without making recommendations for their reburial, repatriation, return, permanent curation, or other treatment.

3.13   You shall take precautions to ensure that correlations between Archaeological Collections and the field records are maintained during accessioning, analysis, and storage of archaeological materials and records so that provenience contextual relationships are not confused or obscured.

3.14   You shall ensure that all documents (paper or digital images, data, maps, and notes) reflect the field or research records and be cross listed with the Archaeological Collections via a uniform system (accession or site number, for example) so that all parts of an Archaeological Collection can be easily identified and located.

3.15   You shall create inventories for each Archaeological Collection that should be made accessible to qualified researchers upon reasonable request.

3.16   In the event that the research is conducted on private lands without agency jurisdiction, you shall work with the owner of private land for permission to conduct an archaeological project and to establish the outcome of any material remains recovered and associated records made. Effort should be made to educate the landowner about the benefits of having the collection curated in a permanent curation facility and, if successful, budget for its curation.

3.17   You should deposit materials resulting from a project at an institution that meets available security and access standards of permanent curatorial facilities, unless otherwise required by Applicable Laws, or unless subject to an approved alternative disposition method, such as reburial of Archaeological Collections or permanent curation or preservation by a Tribal entity or other descendent community.

3.18      You shall file records and/or reports resulting from a project with the appropriate office, museum, or institution that serves as the clearinghouse for all archaeological site records for that site, regardless of the disposition of the materials.

3.19      You shall deposit the digital records of archaeological investigations, with appropriate raw and metadata, in an institution that can responsibly curate and make them available in a way that appropriately controls access to restricted or sensitive information.  The institution must meet guidelines for current best practices, such as, but not limited to, those established by the Core Trust Seal (, or in the Guide to Good Practice published by the Archaeology Data Service and Digital Antiquity (, or the Center for Digital Archaeology, or best practices within the region.  You shall ensure there is information made available about where the Archaeological Collections and digital data are stored so all parts of the collection are known.

3.20      You shall disseminate research results to the appropriate constituencies with reasonable dispatch by appropriate means. Appropriate means may include, but are not limited to, results, reports, and relevant data deposited with historic preservation offices or ministries of culture, articles and chapters published in peer-reviewed publications; data being shared in open-source databases including primary data tables/appendices; and presentations at professional meetings, workshops or other professional venues. You shall comply with the Code in restricting access to confidential or sensitive information (such as site locations). 

3.21      You shall produce a scholarly or technical report within ten (10) years of completion of a project (or a period specified by the educational institution or agency of competent jurisdiction) or yield one’s right of primacy with respect to publication of the data. If you prefer or determine that you will not publish your project results, you shall make your data accessible to other archaeologists for analysis and publication. If you cannot complete a final report within that timeframe for circumstances outside of your control (such as a funding freeze, unusually large and ongoing projects, and other extenuating circumstances) interim or preliminary reports may be acceptable if they are made widely available and are clearly marked as such.

3.22      You shall remain qualified and proficient in archaeology by staying informed and knowledgeable about developments in your area of specialization, including undertaking appropriate continuing education as appropriate, and when required by the Register.

The Register’s ability to investigate and prosecute violations of criminal and civil law regarding non-archaeological matters is limited; however, the Register shall take into account the outcomes from professional law enforcement, courts, and investigators during the enforcement of this Code and any resulting grievance process.

Download a copy of the

Register Code and Standards (2024)

Register of Professional Archaeologists
411 East Northfield Drive, Box 9
Brownsburg, IN  46112

Phone: (317) 798-3001

Grievance Hotline: (410) 246-2150

You do not have to be an RPA/RA to file a Grievance


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