The IFRAO Code of Ethics
(approved 14 July 2000)
1(1). This Code of Ethics describes general guidelines
which IFRAO recommends to its members.
1(2). Rock art provides a window to our collective
past, helps us make sense of the present and
contributes to our future. Some of it has been handed
down to us by many generations preceding us, to
safeguard it for many generations to follow us. Unless
we can trace our lineage directly to those who created
the rock art and have retained aspects of its original
cultural context, it does not belong to us in any way.
1(3). The cultural significance of a rock art site is
embodied in the entire fabric of the site, in addition
to the actual art present; in the traditional use of
the place and the activities that occurred there; and
in the meanings and intangible qualities of the place.
1(4). Understanding the cultural significance of a
place is fundamental to its care, and where such
understanding is inadequate, any interference may be
regarded as inappropriate.
1(5). The patina of history apparent in the fabric
of a rock art site is important evidence and forms an
integral part of that fabric. It includes natural or
artificial changes or traces.
Fabric all physical aspects of a rock art site,
including accretionary deposits, the art itself,
traces of later human responses, modifications, even
traces of vandalism in cases, lichen, and so forth.
Geomorphic exposure any rock surface.
Graffiti collective term describing recent anthropic
graphic markings or inscriptions that are incompatible
with the known or presumed uses of the rock art on the
IFRAO the International Federation of Rock Art
Indigenous cultural custodians descendants of people
who created rock art, who are obligated by their
cultural traditions or beliefs to act as the
custodians or curators of rock art.
Management administrative control over the management
of rock art sites, including preservation, access
control, public presentation.
Massive intervention significant changes to the
environmental conditions under which the rock art
survives. This includes housing in a building, or
removal of the supporting bedrock to another location.
Members the members of IFRAO.
Peer approval the approval of an action or proposed
action by relevant specialists who have no pecuniary
involvement in the project in question.
Rock art the surviving graphic markings of cultural
activities found on rock surfaces.
Triumvirate of IFRAO the ruling council of IFRAO,
consisting of the immediate past president, president
and incoming president [assuming that my proposal to
form such a council is approved in Portugal].
Traditional owners see Indigenous cultural custodians.
3. Issues of Ownership
3(1). Traditional owners and indigenous cultural
custodians: In areas where indigenous peoples live
whose lifestyles and beliefs continue traditions
associated with rock art, members recognise their
ownership of the sites, and all research, conservation
or management of such sites are subject to the full
approval of the traditional owners. In areas where
such indigenous peoples and traditions are no longer
present, members shall endeavour to understand and
promote management practices consistent with such
beliefs in so far as they are known from ethnographic
or archaeological evidence. In the absence of such
evidence to the contrary, provisional concepts of such
beliefs (e.g. non-human sources of authority, nature
of the sacred, non-linear time/space) should be
projected from similar societies and traditions
3(2). Local antiquities and cultural heritage laws:
Members shall abide by all local, state or national
laws protecting archaeological sites and monuments,
and comply with heritage protection laws generally.
3(3). Non-traditional ownership of sites: Members
shall respect the rules, laws or requests of any
individuals or organisations possessing legal
ownership of the land rock art sites are located on,
or the land that must be traversed in order to reach
3(4). Copyright and ownership of records: In regions
where traditional indigenous owners exist, they
possess copyright of the rock art designs. Members
wishing to reproduce such designs shall make
appropriate applications. Records made of rock art
remain the cultural property of the rock artists, or
collectively of the societies these lived amongst.
4. Recording of Rock Art
4(1). Methods of recording: Members shall not
physically interfere with rock art except as provided
in Clauses 5(2) and 6. No substances shall be applied
to rock art for recording purposes, except substances
that are regularly applied to individual panels by
natural processes (e.g. water at open air sites).
4(2). Coverage of recording: All recordings of rock
art are incomplete. Therefore rock art recordings need
to be as comprehensive as possible, and by
4(3). Conduct at sites: New uses of sites, including
for purposes of research, shall not change the fabric
of a site, and shall respect associations and meanings
of the site and its contents.
4(4). Conduct in foreign countries: In addition to
other requirements listed herein, researchers working
in foreign countries shall do so in consultation with
the regions rock art organisation, and shall provide
copies of reports and publications to that
5. Removal of Samples
5(1). Archaeological research: No excavation shall be
undertaken at a rock art site unless it forms part of
an appropriately authorised archaeological research
project. This includes the removal of any sediment to
uncover rock art images. Similarly, no archaeological
surface remains shall be removed or relocated.
5(2). Sampling of rock art and adjacent geomorphic
exposures: No samples shall be removed of paint
residue, accretionary deposits of any kind, or of the
support rock, except after the following requirements
have been satisfied:
(a) The sample removal is to form part of a larger and
specific research design that has peer approval;
(b) The sample removal has been approved in writing by
two peer researchers (i.e. scientists specialising in
the analytical study of rock art);
(c) The funds necessary for the best possible
analytical laboratory support have been secured;
(d) The analyst has extensive first-hand experience in
sampling geomorphic surfaces;
(e) Traditional indigenous custodians, where they have
jurisdiction, have approved the sample removal;
(f) The relevant local or national authorities have
approved the sample removal;
5(3). Excavation: No excavations shall be undertaken
at a rock art site unless the expertise of identifying
rock art-making tools is available to the researchers
proposing such excavation.
6(1). Setting: The area around a rock art site, its
setting, may contain features associated with the rock
art and other evidence of its history. The visual,
historical and other relationships between a site and
its setting which contribute to its significance shall
be retained in all conservation or preservation work.
6(2). Site fabric: In all conservation, preservation
or management work at and near rock art sites, the
visual, historical and scientific significance of the
site fabric shall be retained. The removal or
palliation of graffiti shall be undertaken only
after approval of the relevant authorities, and be
effected only under the guidance of qualified rock art
conservators. Massive intervention is to be reserved
for situations of extreme threats to rock art, and
shall be undertaken only after extensive peer review
6(3). Protection: Members will not disclose the
locations of non-public and unprotected rock art sites
to the general public. Ultimately, the best protection
will depend on the awareness of the general public of
the value of rock art. Part of any conservation effort
should include the education of the public towards
respect for rock art wherever it occurs.
7(1). Conduct: Members shall endeavour to treat other
members in a courteous manner. In regions where
traditional indigenous owners exist, members shall
ensure that they are kept informed about all aspects
of research work, and that copies of completed reports
are made available to them. Where such reports appear
in technical jargon, ordinary-language versions are to
be made available.
7(2). Plagiarism: Members shall acknowledge the use of
other researchers recordings, published comments and
7(3). Dispute settlement: Members shall make every
endeavour to settle disputes among themselves, as
IFRAO is reluctant to settle disputes among its
members. Where a dispute cannot be settled and
threatens the integrity of IFRAO, application for
arbitration shall be made to the President of IFRAO,
providing the relevant documentation. The dispute will
then be arbitrated by the Triumvirate of IFRAO if its
resolution is urgent, but preferably at the subsequent
General Meeting of IFRAO.
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