The War in Ukraine & Ukrainian archaeology

The Organisations represented by their Presidents at the 88th SAA Conference in Portland (OR), alongside the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of Ukraine, announce the following statement on the proceeding and publication of sites, finds and samples from Ukrainian archaeological sites:

The Russian aggression against the sovereignty of Ukraine, beyond being an attack against fundamental human rights, causes severe harm to the fair treatment of its cultural heritage, archaeological material and information, and to the fair treatment of the work of Ukrainian archaeologists, bioarchaeologists and their collaborators. The problem stems in part from historical context, wherein materials from the territory of Ukraine were removed and housed in institutions in Russia (e.g., the Hermitage, Institute and Museum of Anthropology at Moscow State University, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS, Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg) from earlier joint Russian-Ukrainian field projects (prior to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014) but more dramatically since the war, where finds and bioarchaeological samples have been removed to Russian institutions. Despite the fact that the National Commission for the Return of Cultural Property to Ukraine under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has called for repatriation of Ukrainian archaeological heritage including those from Crimea and from the occupied East Ukrainian territories, Russian institutions groundlessly act as the ‘owners’ of these materials.

The Presidents and their organisations call upon scientific committees of conferences, and indeed session organisers themselves, to carefully investigate each session and each presentation submitted by Russian authors, to determine whether any Ukrainian data are involved, and whether Ukrainian archaeologists/bioarchaeologists who excavated and/or processed the data are listed as co-authors. Lacking any of these, the inclusion of these presentations should be rejected.

We urge the same rigorous procedure in the case of all bioarchaeological samples originating from Ukraine that undergo scientific analysis in molecular biological laboratories, to provide a detailed account of the provenance of each sample and the details of how the sample came to be curated outside of Ukraine. In addition, the archaeological background must be provided by those who are authorised to give these.

Similarly, we wish to alert all publishers across the globe that they should not publish Ukrainian material included in studies by Russian authors, without the co-authorship and/or the written agreement of authorised Ukrainian state archaeological institutions, following the principles of “responsible research conduct”. Should Ukrainian researchers, understandably, reject cooperation and joint publication with Russian authors, the publication of material from the territory of Ukraine should not proceed with Russian authors only.

All the above concerns are in the spirit of fairness and ethics. In the current situation, where in Ukraine’s territory is under an aggressive attack, it is a moral imperative for all archaeological organisations to monitor the fate of sites, finds, samples and documentation, and to raise our voice against the discrimination of Ukrainian archaeologists, either by some of their Russian colleagues, by scientific committees, or by publishers.

Dan Cassedy
American Cultural Resources Association

Eszter Bánffy
European Association of Archaeologists (EAA)

John Peterson
International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM)

John Yellen
PaleoAnthropology Society

Trish Fernandez
Register of Professional Archaeologists

Daniel Sandweiss
Society for American Archaeology (SAA)

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