chapter  7
Ethics and the archaeology of world religions
Pages 11

It will be impossible to escape terms such as ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’, but we have to be sensitive to their complexity. The notion of ‘sacredness’ can only operate within a religious system. It is a concept that may be attached to places, persons, times, or objects. For an archaeologist, conflict may therefore arise over the disturbance of a sacred place, the disturbance of human remains that are held to be sacred (either because of who they were in life, or because of the respect that a particular religious system has for any human remains), the conduct of archaeological work on sacred days or at sacred seasons (e.g. excavating on the Sabbath), and the excavation, conservation, and display of sacred objects. ‘Sacredness’ is also a concept capable of gradation. Within a religious system, places, persons, times, and objects are commonly graded in hierarchies of sacrality which may be very elaborate, and the location of a place, person, time, or object within that hierarchy will have important implications for the degree and

nature of the conflict that arises with respect to it (Jenson [1992], for example, shows how the grading of places, persons, times, and objects on a scale from profane to sacred is a key structuring principle of the ritual and cultural system set out in the biblical book Leviticus).