Comments Submitted to CPAC in Cyprus and Peru MoU Extension Requests

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

File:Mosaic , complex of Eustolios , Kourion 2006.jpg
Kourion, Cyprus. Mosaic from the house of Eustolios.
Source: Lapost. CC.
Comments have been submitted to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) regarding an extension of the cultural property Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between Cyprus and the United States as well as Peru and the United States.  The original MoUs authorized by the Cultural Property Implementation Act lasted for five years and placed import restrictions on designated archaeological and ethnological material.  There were a total of 336 comments electronically submitted to the State Department regarding Cyprus’ request and 23 comments regarding Peru’s request.

A sampling of the comments submitted in support of Peru’s request were published in a prior post.  Comments regarding the Cypriot request appear below.

Writing in support of Cyprus’ request for an extension of the MoU, Professor A. Bernard Knapp, Honorary Research Fellow at the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute remarked:

As a retired archaeologist . . . I am keenly aware of the importance of this MoU, which prevents archaeological objects from categories described in the Designated List from enter the US unless they have an export permit issued by the Government of the Republic Cyprus, or documentation that they left Cyprus prior to the effective date of the restriction. In my view, this MoU represents one of the most important documents protecting a country’s indigenous cultural heritage that the US has ever approved; it is an extremely significant tool in Cyprus’s efforts to prevent and combat the looting of its cultural heritage and the illicit trafficking of Cypriot antiquities to the United States, which has one of largest art markets for such antiquities in the world.”

“Signed originally in 2002, amended in 2006 to include Byzantine Period Ecclesiastical and Ritual Ethnological Materials, and renewed in 2007 to include Cypriot coins (end of 6th century BC to AD 235, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus now requests another amendment, to include Ecclesiastical and Ritual Ethnological Materials representing the post-Byzantine period dating up to AD 1850. They do so in order to assure a coherent legal framework in line with the Cyprus’s Antiquities Law. This request is based on numerous recent cases involving the illicit trafficking of ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material that dates later than AD 1500.”

Elizabeth Bartman, President of the Archaeological Institute of America, also wrote in support of the MoU renewal:

“The archaeological evidence from such Bronze Age towns as Kourion [in Cyprus] attest to an active trade and a high level of technical production of ceramics, metal, and stone sculpture.  Unfortunately, many of these distinctive artifacts are much prized by collectors today; the ravaging of the island after the Turkish invasion in 1974 has long been recognized, but looting continues today with loose controls in the northern zone permitting the export of both archaeological and ecclesiastical material.  Because of their random findspots and portability, coins are especially vulnerable to looting and so deserve protection under the Memorandum.”

The comments opposing Cyprus’ request came from the ancient coin collecting community, which does not favor the inclusion of coins in any import protections.  For example, Philip Griest wrote:

“Coins and modern paper money have always been fluid currency. The exchange of money for goods and services internally and internationally has exsited since ancient times. To now require that a specific coin be repatriated because of it's artistic worth seems illogical if not illegal. The money belongs to the person that earned it and then, when spent, to the person who traded for it; no matter goods, services or an exchange of currency. To return such items to the nation that minted the coin is to restrict trade and create an illegal market for the coin. What else can be done to these thousands or hundred (sic) of thousands of coins and artifacts. They can't all end up in museums. Has comman (sic) sense ceased to exist in our nation.

And Glenn Saylor, Jr. wrote:

“I am against import restrictions of Cypriot coins into the United States. There are a large number of collectors of these coins in the United States. We carefully conserve these coins for future generations, and share our knowledge about these coins with not only our fellow collectors, but also the general public. Most of these coins are common, so Cyprus should have little diificulty obtaining needed examples for their museums. Since these coins are so common, it is hard to establish their providence. The net effect is that these common coins will not be allowed import into the United States. All rebutable (sic) coin dealers and collectors are against the looting of archaeological sites. However, I believe other methods can be used to address this issue. For instance in Great Britian (sic), the Government has the first right to buy new coin finds at market price. If this policy was implimented (sic) in Cyprus, their Government would have the first opportunity to purchase any rare coins that were found.”

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