Repository logo

Decolonizing Stewardship: An Ethical Justification For the Repatriation of Archaeological Artefacts



Change log


Herszberg, Daniel 


Through a focus on the archaeological paradigm of stewardship, this paper interrogates whether there exists an ethical justification for repatriation in the context of decolonization. In considering the dilemma of repatriation, I apply and appraise two key ethical frameworks: (1) John Merryman’s (1994) object-oriented framework of preservation, truth and access; and (2) Andreas Pantazatos’ (2015) conceptualisation of the ethical source of stewardship in the concepts of care and respect. Produced two decades apart, these ethical paradigms offer guidance at the Divide between Archaeology and Heritage Studies, providing the good steward different ethical tools when approaching her obligations during the repatriation and decolonization processes. Cognizant of recent political-cultural shifts conflating repatriation and social justice, this paper draws on these theories to highlight the eurocentrism structurally embedded within object-oriented paradigms of stewardship and articulate the utility of Heritage Studies in realising the idealised ethical expectations of archaeological paradigms of stewardship.



repatriation, ethics, John Merryman, Andreas Pantazatos

Journal Title

Rethinking the Archaeology–Heritage Divide

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Publisher DOI

Publisher URL