The following are codes of ethics have been adopted by WAC:

Dead Sea Accord

Dead Sea Accord

The World Archaeological Congress announces the adoption of the Dead Sea Accord. Click here for an introductory letter accompanying the Accord.

The full-text of the Dead Sea Accord can be found below, or at this link. (PDF)

WAC Accord on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict


The World Archaeological Congress expresses its concern for the damage and destruction caused by armed conflict. In adopting this Accord, the Congress acknowledges the unquestionable priority of human life but asserts that the expression and preservation of culture, both tangible and intangible, are basic human rights. This Accord reflects the particular expertise, competencies and focus of the scholarly, professional and avocational lives of the WAC membership. The Congress adopts this Accord while recognizing the pressing need for both universal acceptance of the existing international legal provisions for the protection of cultural property during armed conflict and improvements in that international legal and treaty regime.

Whereas: Cultural heritage informs our many identities, reflects our distinct histories and experiences and creates shared bonds to a common past, standing as a tangible reminder of the millennia of human experience. Cultural heritage can play an integral role in post-conflict reconciliation and its preservation may promote such reconciliation. The destruction of cultural heritage therefore presents humanitarian, preservation, social, and economic concerns, elevating the need to address the protection of the world’s cultural fabric.

Whereas: As a community of scholars, heritage professionals, and affected groups including in particular descendant communities, archaeologists, anthropologists and other cultural heritage specialists, WAC’s area of primary scholarly and professional expertise involves the study of human cultures and interactions as embodied in the physical remains of the past and the relationship of humans to those remains.

Whereas: In numerous conflicts, cultural heritage has been damaged and destroyed, WAC expresses its serious concern at the ongoing disregard by States and other parties involved in armed conflicts for the preservation of cultural heritage, the instruments of international humanitarian law, and accompanying principles, which have the goal of protecting the human rights to culture and cultural heritage.

Whereas: WAC believes that the intentional destruction of cultural property – constituting a basic tangible aspect of cultural heritage and identity – is increasingly becoming a central element in armed conflicts, and the elimination of the cultural remains (including sites, historic structures, religious centers, and repositories of movable cultural property) of whole regions has become an instrument of warfare and ethnic cleansing, which may be considered a crime under international humanitarian law.

WAC adopts the following Accord:

1.            WAC calls on all States to ratify the instruments of international humanitarian law that protect cultural heritage, above all the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague 1954) and its two Protocols (1954 and 1999), as well as the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Paris 1970); to implement them swiftly and efficiently into national legislation and in accord with their spirit and overarching goal to preserve cultural heritage, and to observe and enforce them. WAC further notes that the principle of cultural property protection in the event of armed conflict is also embedded in the First and Second Additional Protocols (1977) to the Geneva Conventions (1949).

2.            WAC calls on States and non-state actors involved in armed conflict to observe the portions of the Hague Convention applicable to them and the broader principles of customary international law requiring the safeguarding of and respect for their own cultural heritage and that of others, and to refrain from negligently or intentionally destroying or damaging cultural heritage during armed conflict.

3.            WAC reminds States, non-state actors and all individuals involved in armed conflict that the intentional and unexcused destruction of cultural heritage is a violation of international humanitarian law and has served as a basis for criminal tribunal prosecutions following both World War II and the Balkan Wars; the unexcused destruction of cultural heritage during armed conflict will continue to serve as a basis for criminal prosecution.

4.            WAC calls on States deploying military forces, private security companies, militias or other contractors in armed conflict to take responsibility for ensuring that such forces, entities, companies and individuals observe the principles of international law in general and the specific principles of international law concerning cultural property protection.

5.            WAC calls on all nations, the United Nations and international regional organizations under whose auspices national, multi-national or private forces may be deployed, including peacekeeping operations, to incorporate the principles of cultural property protection in the authorization of any forces deployed under their mandate or authority; to ensure that cultural property protection is integrated into all Rules of Engagement of such forces; to incorporate cultural property protection into all pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict stabilization planning; to require pre-deployment training in cultural property protection of such forces in general, and of their officers in particular; and to create and maintain the position of expert/liaison officers for cultural property protection in such forces.

6.            Considering Article 9 of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, WAC calls on all States and non-state actors, as well as its membership, to refrain from archaeological excavation in occupied territory, save where this is strictly required to safeguard, record or preserve cultural heritage, and to refrain from any change to or use of cultural heritage which is intended to conceal or destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence.

7.            WAC calls on all nations and actors to respect the pluralistic religious and cultural heritage of any territory under their control and, in particular, to preserve historic structures, religious buildings and other forms of cultural heritage of all groups within those territories.

8.            Considering the First Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and Article 11 of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, WAC calls on all nations to prohibit the import of cultural objects illegally removed from areas subject to armed conflict and military occupation. WAC calls on the United Nations Security Council to explicitly prohibit trade in cultural materials illegally removed from all areas of conflict and occupation (as it did during the 2003 Gulf War).

10.          WAC calls on all States to continue and all States that suspended their funding to resume their funding of UNESCO, which constitutes the basic requirement for the fruitful and peaceful work of UNESCO in general and its cultural heritage work in particular.

11.          WAC calls on all Parties to the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to meet their obligation to contribute to the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict established in Article 29 of the Second Protocol.

12.          WAC calls on all scholars and heritage professionals, in particular its members and other educators, to become familiar with the instruments of international law that protect cultural heritage; to consider them in their scholarly and educational work; where appropriate, to promote as well as to critique them within their communities, with other stakeholders, and with the governmental authorities in their home countries, and to use and refer to them responsibly.

13.          WAC invites all scholars and heritage professionals, in particular its members, to become involved in work fostering cultural heritage protection whenever and wherever feasible and appropriate, as well as through the Blue Shield and Blue Shield national committees, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UNESCO, and others as appropriate.

The work on this Accord started as a consequence of discussions at the WAC-6 (June 29-July 4, 2008, Dublin, Ireland). Focused discussions on the topic of this Accord took place at the WAC-IC Vienna (April 6-10, 2010, Vienna, Austria). A draft of this Accord was originally proposed at WAC-7 (January 13-18, 2013, Dead Sea, Jordan); the final text was produced at the WAC-IC Rome (May 21, 2014, Rome, Italy). The initiators thank all colleagues who contributed to this Accord by submitting written statements or contributing during the discussion in the past seven years.

Patty Gerstenblith (Chicago) and Friedrich Schipper (Vienna).


The Vermillion Accord on Human Remains

The Vermillion Accord on Human Remains

Adopted in 1989 at WAC Inter-Congress, South Dakota, USA.

1. Respect for the mortal remains of the dead shall be accorded to all, irrespective of origin, race, religion, nationality, custom and tradition.

2. Respect for the wishes of the dead concerning disposition shall be accorded whenever possible, reasonable and lawful, when they are known or can be reasonably inferred.

3. Respect for the wishes of the local community and of relatives or guardians of the dead shall be accorded whenever possible, reasonable and lawful.

4. Respect for the scientific research value of skeletal, mummified and other human remains (including fossil hominids) shall be accorded when such value is demonstrated to exist.

5. Agreement on the disposition of fossil, skeletal, mummified and other remains shall be reached by negotiation on the basis of mutual respect for the legitimate concerns of communities for the proper disposition of their ancestors, as well as the legitimate concerns of science and education.

6. The express recognition that the concerns of various ethnic groups, as well as those of science are legitimate and to be respected, will permit acceptable agreements to be reached and honoured.


The Tamaki Makau-rau Accord on the Display of Human Remains and Sacred Objects

The Tamaki Makau-rau Accord on the Display of Human Remains and Sacred Objects

Proposed in November, 2005 at WAC Inter-Congress, Auckland, New Zealand. Adopted by WAC Council in January, 2006, WAC Inter-Congress, Osaka, Japan

In recognition of the principles adopted by the Vermillion Accord, the display of human remains and sacred objects is recognised as a sensitive issue. Human remains include any organic remains and associated material. Sacred objects are those that are of special significance to a community. Display means the presentation in any media or form of human remains and sacred objects, whether on a single occasion or on an ongoing basis, including conference presentations or publications. Community may include, but is not limited to, ethnic, racial, religious, traditional or Indigenous groups of people.

WAC reiterates its commitment to scientific principles governing the study of the human past. We agree that the display of human remains or sacred objects may serve to illuminate our common humanity. As archaeologists, we believe that good science is guided by ethical principles and that our work must involve consultation and collaboration with communities. The members of the WAC council agree to assist with making contacts within the affected communities.

Any person(s) or organisation considering displaying such material or already doing so should take account of the following principles:

1. Permission should be obtained from the affected community or communities.

2. Should permission be refused that decision is final and should be respected.

3. Should permission be granted, any conditions to which that permission is subject should be complied with in full.

4. All display should be culturally appropriate.

5. Permission can be withdrawn or amended at any stage and such decisions should be respected.

6. Regular consultation with the affected community should ensure that the display remains culturally appropriate.


Code Of Ethics For The Amazon Forest Peoples

Code Of Ethics For The Amazon Forest Peoples


1. Seeing that Amazon forest peoples are on the brink of extinction.

2. That these peoples have minimal or no contact with the developed or developing world.

3. That such contact even as recently as 1993 has been responsible for massacres of entire villages loss of territories, epidemic diseases and devastation of crops.

4. That measures so far taken by national governments to protect these cultures does not suffice to halt these peoples decline.

5. Admitting that uncontrolled occupation of the territories of these peoples by alien intruders forces them to work under oppressive conditions.

6. Seeing that such exploitation causes loss of culture and destruction of family and community.

7. An urgent action’ be undertaken if these forest peoples and cultures are to survive into the 21st century.


Seen the magnitude of the threats weighing on Amazon forest peoples the international community accepts immediate responsibility to protect these remaining populations from recrimination massacres and death threats.

1. Realistic and definite international demarcation of Indian territories and accurate recognition of traditional land rights be enshrined in law.

2. Recognition at the highest level of authority of Amazonian and forest peoples rights on such traditional lands.

3. That funds contributed by World Bank be allocated to ensure the demarcation of such territories.

4. That all intruders regardless of their origin such as colonisers, miners,:forestry companies, religious groups be removed from these territories immediately.


1.We recommend that both national and international laws for the protection of these peoples be universally respected and implemented.

2.That massacre of forest peoples be denounced and investigated immediately as an act against humanity and a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

3.That the guilty parties be judged without impunity.

4.That any imprisoned person of forest ethnic origin be allowed contact with his or her family, chief or advisor, treated humanely according to his or her ethnic need.

5.That survivors of massacres and atrocities be fully protected by law or security forces, specifically when called upon or wishing to bear witness.

6.That amazon chiefs, shamans, captains and communities be consulted with on all issues concerning their forest environment rivers’,lakes, faunas and floras upon which their survival depends.

7.Each nation in the region establish a permanent judicial commission to ensure the implementation of the above recommendations.


The WAC “Code of ethics for indigenous peoples” and the “Vermillon Accord” be followed in the case of research and that research should not be conducted without the prior consent of peoples and that they be informed of the results of such research.


First Code of Ethics

First Code of Ethics

Adopted by WAC Council in 1990 at WAC-2, Barquisimeto, Venezuela

Principles to Abide By:

Members agree that they have obligations to indigenous peoples and that they shall abide by the following principles:

1. To acknowledge the importance of indigenous cultural heritage, including sites, places, objects, artefacts, human remains, to the survival of indigenous cultures.

2. To acknowledge the importance of protecting indigenous cultural heritage to the well-being of indigenous peoples.

3. To acknowledge the special importance of indigenous ancestral human remains, and sites containing and/or associated with such remains, to indigenous peoples.

4. To acknowledge that the important relationship between indigenous peoples and their cultural heritage exists irrespective of legal ownership.

5. To acknowledge that the indigenous cultural heritage rightfully belongs to the indigenous descendants of that heritage.

6. To acknowledge and recognise indigenous methodologies for interpreting, curating, managing and protecting indigenous cultural heritage.

7. To establish equitable partnerships and relationships between Members and indigenous peoples whose cultural heritage is being investigated.

8. To seek, whenever possible, representation of indigenous peoples in agencies funding or authorising research to be certain their view is considered as critically important in setting research standards, questions, priorities and goals.

Rules to Adhere to:

Members agree that they will adhere to the following rules prior to, during and after their investigations:

1. Prior to conducting any investigation and/or examination, Members shall with rigorous endeavour seek to define the indigenous peoples whose cultural heritage is the subject of investigation.

2. Members shall negotiate with and obtain the informed consent of representatives authorized by the indigenous peoples whose cultural heritage is the subject of investigation.

3. Members shall ensure that the authorised representatives of the indigenous peoples whose culture is being investigated are kept informed during all stages of the investigation.

4. Members shall ensure that the results of their work are presented with deference and respect to the identified indigenous peoples.

5. Members shall not interfere with and/or remove human remains of indigenous peoples without the express consent of those concerned.

6. Members shall not interfere with and/or remove artefacts or objects of special cultural significance, as defined by associated indigenous peoples, without their express consent.

7. Members shall recognise their obligation to employ and/or train indigenous peoples in proper techniques as part of their projects, and utilise indigenous peoples to monitor the projects.

The new Code should not be taken in isolation; it was seen by Council as following on from WAC’s adoption of the Vermillion Accord passed in 1989 at the South Dakota Inter-Congress.