Survey on Field Safety: Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin

By Beth Alpert Nakhai
Arizona Center for Judaic Studies & School of Anthropology
Trustee, American School of Oriental Research
September 2014

Stories about romantic escapades on archaeological excavations are legend, as anyone who has worked on a dig can surely attest. We have all heard about happy relationships that began in the field and thrived for decades. But as we also know, excavation lore contains stories of other kinds of “relationships,” as well. This Survey on Field Safety: Middle East, North Africa, and Mediterranean Basin is designed to understand the ways in which archaeological fieldwork does – or does not – provide a safe and secure setting for all participants. In particular, it focuses on physical and emotional safety from intimidation, harassment and violence based on gender, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity.

Participants on archaeological field projects in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin, whether volunteers or staff, live and work within what has been termed a “state of exception.” They are in foreign countries, far from home. They may live and work in isolated settings. They may be unable travel easily for reasons relating to language, finances, inexperience, scarcity of transportation, dependence upon team leaders, lack of friends or supportive community members, unfamiliarity with local legal systems and/or cultural norms, inhospitable legal systems and/or cultural norms, political unrest, and more. For these reasons, such individuals may be unable to protect themselves from aggressive and unwanted violations of their personal safety and security, and they may find that effective means of dealing with intimidation, harassment, and violence are limited or even non-existent. Conversely, under such conditions, some individuals may be more likely to engage in subtle or flagrant violations of accepted normative behavior.

Beyond documenting and quantifying experiences, the goals of this survey project include building collaboration among professional societies and institutes in order to: determine those factors that contribute to safe and unsafe fieldwork environments; identify areas in which further research is necessary; determine best practices and the means by which to implement them; develop standards, policies and protocols designed to educate and inform all participants in archaeological excavations about ethics and laws in the field and on research projects; and, under the auspices of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), develop and offer online trainings, and provide access to relevant documents for excavation leaders, staff, volunteers, and employees.

Whichever kinds of experiences you have had, we hope that you will click on the link below, take the survey, and help us make archaeology safer for everyone. Feel free to circulate this info and the survey link to anyone you think might be interested in it. Finally, if you would like to receive follow-up information regarding the results of this survey, please contact the principal investigator, Beth Alpert Nakhai, Ph.D., R.P.A., Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and School of Anthropology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Link to the study:

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