By Rhiannon Agutter

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Recently I was fortunate enough to participate in the first World Archaeological Congress Student Ethics Debate held at WAC-7 on the Dead Sea, Jordan.  The Ethics Debate provided an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of students from all over the world and discuss different approaches to common archaeological ethical dilemmas. Teams in the debate were provided with a number of hypothetical situations which could easily exist in real life and for each scenario we were required to discuss how the situation should be dealt with, how it might have been avoided and what ethical and legislative framework surrounds the problem.

Despite some initial scheduling clashes between the debates and the other obligations of student volunteers in the end four teams of four or more people of mixed backgrounds battled it out in three very successful sessions. Each and every participant showed tremendous enthusiasm and brought a diverse range of views and experiences to the table which made for an interesting and engaging debate. I was incredibly surprised to find that in the grand final both teams had such different approaches to the two scenarios presented, revealing just how subjective ethics can be.

Team 8, of myself and Karen Martin-Stone from Flinders University; Vicky Roca from Argentina; Irene Esteban from the University of Barcelona, Spain; Banani Bhattacharyya from the University of Calcutta, India; and Ruman Banerjee from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom eventually took out the title after facing some incredibly tough competition, including a team in the semi-finals which literally formed minutes before the debate began but which still came out with some incredibly convincing and engaging solutions to the ethical issues.

Overall the WAC-7 Student Ethics Debate was a fantastic event and I would highly recommend students to become involved in similar events held in the future, perhaps at WAC-8, Kyoto. Through participating in the debate I had the opportunity to learn from both from my peers and through the excellent feedback supplied by the judges; gain a better understanding of how best to approach similar problems in the real world; and meet a range of awesome people from all over the world. It was a thoroughly worthwhile event and I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up for any future ethics debates. Congratulations to all the participants and a big thank you to all the organisers, judges and sponsors.

Team 8, winners of the WAC-7 International Student Ethics Debate. L-R: Ruman Banerjee, Banani Bhattacharyya, Irene Estaban, Karen Martin-Stone, Rhiannon Agutter and Victoria Roca (photograph: courtesy of Karen Martin-Stone 18/01/2013).
Team 8, winners of the WAC-7 International Student Ethics Debate. L-R: Ruman Banerjee, Banani Bhattacharyya, Irene Estaban, Karen Martin-Stone, Rhiannon Agutter and Victoria Roca (photograph: courtesy of Karen Martin-Stone 18/01/2013).

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