Thursday 1 December 2011

Illegally Exported Artefacts from Greece (Including Coins) on US Watch List

The list produced (under CCPIA section 2604, check it out, you might be surprised) of archaeological and ethnographic material from Greece which can be imported freely into the US only if accompanied by documentation of legal export has just been published
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, 19 CFR Part 12 [CBP Dec. 11-25] RIN 1515-AD84 "Import Restrictions Imposed on Certain Archaeological and Ethnological Material From Greece" Archaeological materials representing Greece's cultural heritage from the Upper Paleolithic (beginning approximately 20,000 B.C.) through the 15th century A.D. and ecclesiastical ethnological material representing Greece's Byzantine culture (approximately the 4th century through the 15th century A.D.).
effective December 1, 2011.

The ACCG supporters who all wrote to the CPAC asking them not to impose these restrictions should read the preamble attentively. This is about the import of illegally exported items, the US is not the only nation involved, and to oafishly oppose is tantamount to being un-American:
The value of cultural property, whether archaeological or ethnological in nature, is immeasurable. Such items often constitute the very essence of a society and convey important information concerning a people's origin, history, and traditional setting. The importance and popularity of such items regrettably makes them targets of theft, encourages clandestine looting of archaeological sites, and results in their illegal export and import. The United States shares in the international concern for the need to protect endangered cultural property. The appearance in the United States of stolen or illegally exported artifacts from other countries where there has been pillage has, on occasion, strained our foreign and cultural relations. This situation, combined with the concerns of museum, archaeological, and scholarly communities, was recognized by the President and Congress. It became apparent that it was in the national interest for the United States to join with other countries to control illegal trafficking of such articles in international commerce.

The United States joined international efforts and actively participated in deliberations resulting in the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (823 U.N.T.S. 231 (1972)). U.S. acceptance of the 1970 UNESCO Convention was codified into U.S. law as the ``Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act'' (Pub. L. 97-446, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.) (the Act). This was done to promote U.S. leadership in achieving greater international cooperation towards preserving cultural treasures that are of importance to the nations from where they originate and contribute to greater international understanding of our common heritage.
The list contains a whole range of the type of items that are looted from archaeological sites and then sold on the collectors' market, of stone, ceramic, metal, Bone, Ivory, and Other Organics, glass and faience, textiles, papyrus, paintings and mosaics. It includes things like statues, runs through pots and even mentions beads. All these things are collected, all these things are smuggled out of Greece (the smaller the easier it is) and all of them are looted and stolen to fuel the market.

If the barrier of bubbles that the US Customs seems to be when it comes to the thousands of freshly "surfaced" (from "underground") artefacts openly sold on their markets can cope with finding the packages of illicitly exported items among the masses that pass through it every day, there is at last a tool which allows them to take action, two and a half decades after the US "implemented" the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Whether or not it is the action that is needed to stop this disgusting trade is another thing. That is up to the authorities in the US.

These measures are only temporary, the US can go back to being the Robber Baron of the Greek illicit antiquities market in five years time, what obviously needs to happen in the next five years is a change in the attitudes of 'entitlement' to illicitly exported material among dealers and collectors on a global scale, let us see how well the USA copes with making itself the "leader" in this regard.

And yes, ancient Greek coins are metal artefacts typically taken from the archaeological record and typically sold without the required documentation, and they are on the list. Coins of the fourth (nota bene) to fifteenth century however are not on the list.

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