Monday, 25 March 2019

My CPAC Comment in Support of Jordan MOU

My CPAC Comment in Support of Jordan MOU
Dear CPAC,As an archaeologist with a special interest in the damage done to archaeological sites and assemblages through the collection of and trade in archaeological artefacts, I am writing to express my full support of the request from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for a cultural property agreement and MOU with the United States in order to help in stopping the illicit trade of artefacts from Jordan. 
Jordan has taken many measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony, most notably in the maintenance of a state body, the Jordanian Department of Antiquities tasked with this care. This was established in 1923 and its work includes inventorying, monitoring, and managing Jordan's vast number of archaeological sites. This task is now aided by a comprehensive public geographic information system and database of archaeological sites in the country (developed in cooperation with US specialists - The DoA deserves all the help we can give it to achieve the task of managing and securing the region’s archaeological heritage and ensuring that future generations will also benefit from the wealth of the past. The reported involvement of local communities in the protection of the heritage (again currently supported by US aid - is also indicative of the importance it holds to many citizens.
In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on the cultural patrimony of the country, including from pillage of archaeological material. Clandestine looting has been documented in the field on a number of sites (most notably by the groundbreaking "Follow the Pots" project, headed by Morag Kersel, DePaul University in Chicago - - Material of types known to occur in the Jordanian archaeological record, apparently freshly surfaced, is turning up right now on eBay and in venues such as the US-based V-Coins portal. It is in the unstable situation existing in the Middle East today that the cultural heritage is at most jeopardy and requires care to keep freshly smuggled illicit artefacts off the major markets.
Of those markets, that of the US is undoubtedly among the most voracious. It is telling how many US dealers and collectors of dugup antiquities time and time again attempt to oppose any attempt under the CCPIA to clean up the US trade and keep undocumented examples of such material off the US market. 
In Jordan, there have been initiatives to train local agents of law enforcement in how to counter trafficking of cultural objects, and to raise awareness and of the threats arising from trafficking of cultural objects. An example of this was the five-day National Training on Countering Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage session held in Amman in February 2018 (made possible thanks to the funds received from the Norwegian Government - But to stop it, the chain of supply and demand for illicit antiquities obviously needs to be tackled at both ends, in the market countries as well as the victimized source countries.
Most other countries that are party to the 1970 UNESCO ‘Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property’ apply it to the cultural property of all other member states without discrimination, the Convention is after all intended to foster international collaboration and ‘build peace in the minds of men’. The US is one of the few countries that apply it selectively, on a country-by-country basis, dividing international partners into ‘better’ and ‘worse’. If the US applies restrictions on imports of artefacts exported from Jordan to only those properly documented, it would only be joining the rest of the international community in implementing the Convention. The US, surely, should be a leader in such a concerted effort, not a reluctant tagalong – especially given the size and nature of the no-questions-asked US antiquities market and the appetites and attitudes of those involved in it. Doing all possible to prevent illicit material passing onto any major market is obviously going to be of substantial benefit in deterring the development of a serious situation of pillage in Jordan. There is no need to see anything ‘drastic’ about keeping illicit artefacts (or those not complying with the liberal measures of the CCPIA) off the US market. On the contrary.
Quite clearly, and in particular in the current situation, the restriction of antiquities originating in Jordan through applying the measures of the CCPIA is not only completely consistent with, but also imperative in, the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for cultural, scientific and educational purposes.

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