Monday, December 26, 2011

My Own Comments to CPAC

Dear Prof. Gerstenblith and CPAC:

I am writing on my own behalf, and will be submitting comments on behalf of IAPN and PNG shortly. CPAC recommended against import restrictions on Cypriot coins twice. There is no reason for this to change, and if anything, there is every reason to recommend that the current MOU with Cyprus be terminated.

As to coins, scholarly evidence proves that one cannot assume that coins of Cypriot type only circulated within the Island as has been claimed to justify restrictions. If one cannot assume that Cypriot coins only circulated on the Island, one cannot legally impose import restrictions which by law must apply only to artifacts first discovered in and be subject to the export control of Cyprus.

Moreover, there is no reason to renew the MOU for another 5 years. Cyprus has already had the benefit of restrictions since 1999 on ethnological artifacts and 2002 on archaeological artifacts. Cyprus claims that restrictions are needed because of looting on the occupied side of the Island, but a Swiss scholar who has studied the issue indicates most looted material from both the Turkish and Greek sides of the Island goes to wealthy Greek Cypriot collectors, and not as has been maintained to collectors abroad. In addition, all this appears to be done with the full knowledge and acquiescence of Greek Cypriot authorities. Under the circumstances, why should the US burden its own citizens and small businesses with such restrictions? To do so will only reward Cypriot authorities for their own considerable hypocrisy and thus make a mockery of the supposed purpose of such MOU’s to protect archaeological context.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.


kyri said...

i personally believe that the government of cyprus actively encourages its wealthy citizens to buy cypriot antiquities,as they see this,sometimes, as the only way to get the artifacts back on the island.they have been doing this for years,buying back looted material,we recently had the byzantine frescoes looted from the church of lysi, returnd by the menill collection, which were bought with the consent of the greek cypriot church, way back in the 80s.recently the kurdish government bought back looted antiquities for their museums,it does not saying its the right thing to do but these governments see this as a last resort in the fight for the restoration of some of their cultural heritage.some,like you may accuse them of hypocricy,others might think they are being patriotic in trying to save as much of their cultural heritage as they can.personally i think the idea of buying looted material is a bad one but i can understand why they do it,especially if the piece is of national importance.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Well, I assume this would be their rationalization, but (1) the collectors are also buying looted material from the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus; (2) their wealth of these collectors gives them connections not available to most citizens. Why not one rule for everyone instead of cozy deals for wealthy insiders?

I think you have observed that the UK has a better system. I agree. One rule for everyone. Require reporting and recording. Schedule archaeological sites, and make them off limits. Have the State retain only culturally significant artifacts and let the rest go to collectors worldwide.

kyri said...

most of these collectors donate their collections to the state.there is alot of "meson"[inside influence] as cypriots call it and money certainly helps oil the wheels of government bureaucracy[as im sure it does in many countrys,including yours].
cyprus has a tiny population peter,about 600 thousand people,there is allways someone that knows someone,who can pull strings.
i agree that a system nearer to the british model is preferable but not one exactly the same.the system we have in the uk was a good idea in theory but in practice,due to lax treasure laws and practically no control over what is going on, has degenerated over the years into a form of legalised looting but i must say that with some legislation and a bit more control it will still be the best way forward,in my opinion for source countrys.
ps,many cypriot freinds and relatives of mine[two of them teachers,one a doctor and another a lawyer] would never dream of adopting a system like the pas in cyprus,one of them went as far as to say that the brits are "mad and care nothing for their cultural heritage"
we have to understand that people brought up and educated in these countrys have a totally different mentality when it comes to cultural artifacts,than the one we do.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks for your comments. A few thoughts. 1. If you are part of the connected few whether you be in Egypt, Cyprus or Greece, the status quo looks pretty good; 2. I think you have been reading too much Barford-- no system is perfect, but at least we have an enormous database in the UK of finds-- contrast this to the situation in Cyprus, Greece, etc.; 3. I have to laugh about your Cypriot relative's uninformed statement about the British caring nothing about their heritage-- the fallacy of this point of view should be apparent to anyone who has visited there, gone to the British Museum and seen some of the Treasure Trove finds.

Frankly, the Cypriots can have any cultural heritage system they want, but I do question why the US taxpayer is being asked to support it or that US small businesses and collectors are expected to be burdened so on account of it.

kyri said...

hi peter,
"i have to laugh about your cypriot relatives uniformed statement about the british caring nothing for their heritage"
only one of them said this,hardly uniformed.there are some cypriots[though not many] who would wellcome a more liberal approach.
ps the us oil firm drilling off the coast announced today that the gas/oil found off the south coast of cyprus is one of the largest finds ever.last week hilliry clinton invited the greek cypriot foreign minister to washington for "talks".we both know that money talks and if the cypriots want coins to be included in the mou,[something i dont personally agree with]i think they will be.there are bigger things going on behind the scenes.there could be 1000 comments against the addition of coins and i dont think it would make a difference,even if the republicans were in power, i dont think anything would change.

Cultural Property Observer said...


I wonder if the dislike of the PAS may have something to do with the fact that the UK was a colonial power in Cyprus' recent past. Interestingly, many years ago the Cyprus Numismatic Society supported the application of the Treasure Act. Don't know where they stand on that today.

Yes, I suppose oil and gas may indeed trump coins, but I suspect the Cypriots are more interested in support against their enemies, the Turks than restrictions on coins. Anyway, if the Obama Administration is to be believed, they put fidelity to the law over the short cuts and cronyism of the Bush Administration. Do you think they will live up to it here?