Code of Conduct

Department of Archaeology


These guidelines are set by the Department of Archaeology to make fieldwork a safer scientific environment, and to provide all participants with clear expectations and rights. Researchers, students, and all affiliated personnel (hereafter participants) engaged in research projects either conducted by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History Department of Archaeology (MPI-SHH), or in which MPI-SHH is an organizing partner will adhere to the following Code of Conduct for the duration of the research project. The duration for research projects is here considered to be the time from the start of travel to the conclusion of travel and all time in-between, including during leisure or “off-duty” periods. Projects that are conducted in collaboration with outside institutions may agree to modify these guidelines to best accommodate their needs. By providing a baseline for fieldwork conduct, we hope to foster more effective research collaborations and so MPI-SHH requests cooperation in guaranteeing MPI/non-MPI personnel have clear guidance on rules, regulations, and procedures before conducting fieldwork.



1.1 Inter-personal conduct

  • Project participants will respect the rights of other students, project members, or the public.
  • Participants will not practice discrimination or harassment based on race, sex, gender, religion, age, national origin, disability, HIV status, or sexual orientation.
  • Project participants will not verbally abuse or harass other project members, or the public. This includes all forms of disparaging comments, comments intended to shame or humiliate, personal insults, and verbal threats of any kind.
  • Project participants will not physically abuse or harass other project members or the public. This includes all forms of bodily harm, gestures to do harm, intimidation, or other physical or verbal threats of physical violence.
  • Project participants will not sexually abuse, harass, or assault other project members or the public. This includes any unwanted physical contact, comments of a sexual nature including demanding sexual favors, and all other forms of sexual violence, or threats or implications thereof.
  • Project participants will not behave in an unruly or disreputable manner or to the discomfort of any project member, students, or members of the public in any way not explicitly covered above.
  • Project participants will respect and adhere to any additional rules or regulations of host countries and partner institutions (museums, universities, institutes, etc.) of host countries. Participants will engage with all personnel and representatives of said institutions with the utmost respect and courtesy.
  • Project participants will respect and follow all reasonable instructions and directions of the fieldwork leader.
  • Project participants will strive to maintain a positive and constructive attitude concerning their fellow participants and the project as a whole to the best of their ability.
  • Project participants will maintain an overall professional attitude and atmosphere during the course of the project, as would be appropriate for any other work environment.


1.2 Behavior in the field and community relations

  • Participants will be aware of all laws of the country and region in which fieldwork is being conducted and will respect the social and cultural beliefs of their hosts insofar as they do not conflict with other rules for personal behavior on site and in camp set forth in this code of conduct.
  • Participants will not transport, purchase, or use any substances which are prohibited in the host country.
  • If participants choose to drink alcohol, they will do so responsibly and within the boundaries of local laws and customs. Fieldwork leaders have the discretion to limit or prohibit consumption of alcohol on field projects for reasons of team safety, and participants will respect these decisions.
  • Participants will not tamper with, vandalize, or destroy private or public property.
  • Participants will not litter and will do their due diligence to minimize the impact of all activities on the local environment.
  • Participants will be respectful and courteous to all members of the public during the period of fieldwork unless they should feel threatened in any way.
  • Participants will adhere to any restrictions concerning public dissemination of photographs or findings from archaeological fieldwork as imposed by MPI-SHH or the fieldwork leader. This includes posting on social media, professional presentations, interactions with the press, or publications of any form.

1.3 Policy on drugs and alcohol in the field

  • Use of illegal drugs is forbidden at all times during the fieldwork season.
  • Consumption of alcohol is forbidden during work hours, including any time in which participants are engaged in excavation, survey, or lab work.
  • Participants will not drive or operate heavy equipment after consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • Participants will not drink alcoholic beverages to excess at any time during the course of a fieldwork season.
  • Additional rules concerning when and where participants may drink alcoholic beverages may be enacted by the project leader where deemed necessary for reasons of personnel safety.



  • Participants are responsible for ensuring their own travel medical insurance coverage for the duration of the field project.
  • Participants will take all necessary precautions to ensure their own health, safety and welfare, as well as the health, safety and welfare of other participants in the fieldwork.
  • Participants will wear appropriate clothing for the conditions and circumstances.
  • Participants will take precautions appropriate for protection from the sun or cold weather.
  • Fieldwork leaders will ensure adequate food and water is provided to all project participants during fieldwork. This includes accommodating special dietary requirements insofar as is possible.
  • Fieldwork leaders will ensure that a well-stocked first aid kit is readily available on-site and in-camp at all times.
  • Fieldwork leaders will have a plan to transport any participant to the nearest medical facility in the event of an emergency and will ensure that an appropriate mode of transportation is readily available at all times.
  • Fieldwork leaders will ensure to the best of their ability that all participants are able to communicate with the fieldwork leader and the broader world. This includes purchasing local SIM cards and phone credits, and providing a basic cellular phone if need be. Participants will in turn ensure that they are able to remain in regular communication with fieldwork leaders or representatives from MPI-SHH.
  • Fieldwork leaders will regularly report to a pre-designated project leader at MPI-SHH on the well-being of all project participants and keep them appraised of any issues that develop. These check-ins may be very brief, but should occur as often as possible.
  • Participants must notify the fieldwork leader of any medical condition that may affect your wellbeing in the field, and will inform the fieldwork leader of any emerging health conditions, sicknesses, physical pain, or changes in mood or perception.
  • Fieldwork leaders will take all reports of physical or mental ailment seriously and will report to relevant health care professionals when possible.

Fieldwork leaders will coordinate changes in travel plans (flights, trains, etc.) as needed in the case of injury, illness, or if a project member requests to leave the project early due to an incident of physical or sexual assault.



3.1 Procedures in the event of an infraction.

Project participants must be advised that they must comply with the Code of Conduct and fieldwork rules. In the case of breaches of these rules the fieldwork leader has the authority to take appropriate action and to coordinate with local authorities as circumstances require.

  • In the case of physical assault, sexual misconduct of any kind, violence of any kind, or other extreme breach of conduct the fieldwork leader will immediately require the violator to leave the field site and report the incident to MPI-SHH. If deemed necessary for project safety and where possible the fieldwork leader will coordinate transportation and change of travel plans with MPI-SHH. If the individual must stay on-site for reasons of safety, they will be prohibited from further participation on the project.
    • In the event of such an infraction, MPI-SHH will notify all institutions and supervisors of the accusations against the violator and the details of the incident
    • The fieldwork leader will ensure that victims are able to access to medical care and to document physical or sexual assault at a medical facility.
    • In the case of other forms of infraction, the fieldwork leader will be responsible for assessing the situation and taking whatever action they feel is appropriate, including the possibility for immediate removal from the field project.
    • The fieldwork leader will document all breaches of conduct and report these to MPI-SHH, no matter how minor.

3.2 Further penalties.

In the event of extreme breaches of conduct, the following penalties may be applied. By signing this Code of Conduct all project participants acknowledge these penalties and all supervisors affirm they will uphold any or all of these penalties within, and outside of, MPI-SHH.

  • Removal from the field-site.
  • Removal from the research project, and any other projects in which MPI-SHH is involved.
  • Potential cessation of future collaborative activities with members of MPI-SHH and other supervising institutions.
  • Other formal disciplinary action by MPI-SHH or partner institutions.

Other breaches of conduct that merit serious penalties will be handled at the discretion of MPI-SHH in consultation with the fieldwork leader and any other affiliated supervising institutions. MPI-SHH reserves the right to enforce any of the above penalties in such cases in consultation with the fieldwork leader and any other affiliated supervising institutions.



4.1 Levels of supervision must be agreed as part of the planning and approval process.

  • There must be a clear command structure within a fieldwork group.
  • There must be adequate deputizing arrangements to maintain effective levels of supervision if, for example, the party splits into smaller groups, or the Fieldwork Leader is not available. When command passes from the fieldwork leader to others, for example a local guide, all members of the party must be kept fully informed.
  • When possible there will be a second fieldwork leader (of another biological sex from the main leader) to facilitate the comfort of all individuals to report harassment
  • The fieldwork leader should ensure that the level of supervision is adequate for any given situation or group and make adjustments to itineraries in the interests of safety, including – where necessary – stopping or cancelling an activity.
  • Any disputes or breaches of conduct will be reported to the fieldwork leader, and in turn will be reported to MPI-SHH and any other relevant institutions or individuals.
  • No project member should work out of line-of-sight and/or contact from other team members. In the event that working alone is absolutely necessary, project members will have a means of direct communication with the team and will check in at regular intervals.


4.2 Reporting structure

  • Project participants should report any breach of the code of conduct or instance of abuse by another project participants directly to the fieldwork leader so that they may begin fact-gathering and documentation as soon as possible to determine the appropriate course of action.
    • The fieldwork leader will report, discuss, and evaluate substantiated reports of infringement with Department of Archaeology leadership and relevant MPI personnel as required. When necessary, these evaluations will include relevant collaborative institutions.
    • Investigation of all claims of harassment, abuse, or other violations of the code of conduct will be carried out under existing structures of the participating institutions before any formal or institutional penalties are considered. Reporting and evaluation procedures for the Max Planck Society are available online ( and MPI-SHH is obliged to follow these procedures.
    • If a fieldwork leader is in violation of the code of conduct it must be reported directly to the Department Director.
    • In the event a project participant feels threatened or unsafe, either due to actions of a fieldwork leader or other participant wherein the fieldwork leader is not taking action or is the violator, that participant should contact MPI-SHH directly, or an alternative supervisor who may contact MPI-SHH as a proxy, to make necessary arrangements.


  •  Project participants are encouraged to make formal complaints or comments directly to MPI-SHH in order to facilitate formal inquiries over breaches of this code. All project members will be provided contact information for multiple people at MPI-SHH and will have an independent means of direct communication.



All research projects whether museum or field based will adhere to the following international standards for ethical fieldwork.

  • All required permits and permissions will be obtained from relevant authorities before conducting archaeological fieldwork and before exporting of any samples from the country of origin.
  • The purposes and consequences of all archaeological research should be carefully considered before the beginning of work. Approaches and methods should be chosen that require a minimum of damage to the archaeological record and the local ecology.
  • Written reports of all fieldwork will be submitted to the relevant body in the host country. Research teams will comply with all other protocols for data sharing and reporting of results as stipulated in existing MoU’s or other research agreements.
  • When possible, results of fieldwork will be reported to the local community. This should include meeting with the relevant local leadership, organized visits to local schools, and hosting community reporting meetings.
  • Participants will not engage in any form of plagiarism or the fabrication or falsification of data. Participants will truthfully report the results of excavations and scholarship.
  • Archaeologists should anticipate and provide for adequate and accessible long-term storage and curatorial facilities for all archaeological materials, records, and archives, including machine-readable data, which require specialized archival care and maintenance.
  • All research projects should contain specific plans for conservation, preservation, and publication/authorship from the very outset, and funds should be secured for such purposes.
  • All research projects should consult with the appropriate representatives of local institutions and communities during the planning stage, invite local participation, and regularly inform the community of progress.
  • All archaeological research will be carefully and precisely documented at all stages.
  • Participants will not take any artifacts for personal possession or sale from archaeological sites or curated collections.
  • Human remains may not be excavated without appropriate institutional or community permissions (as locally appropriate), and should ideally be carried out by archaeologists with experience in bioarchaeological recovery.
  • Participants will not provide estimates of monetary value for any archaeological materials at any point.
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