Monday, January 30, 2012

CPAC Meeting on Renewal of MOU with Cyprus

The United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met on January 18, 2012, to discuss the Cypriot MOU. Once again, CPAC Chair Prof. Patty Gerstenblith (PG, DePaul, Public Representative) began by thanking all speakers or those who had provided comments to CPAC. PG was joined by the following CPAC members Katherine Reid (KR, Cleveland Museum (retired)-Museum); Nina Archabal (NA, Minn. Historical Society-Museum); Marta de la Torre (MT- Florida International University, Public); James Willis (JW, James Willis Tribal Art-Trade); Nancy Wilkie (NW-Carlton College, Archaeology); Barbara Bluhm Kaul (BK,Trustee, Art Institute of Chicago- Public); Jane Levine (JL, Sotheby’s Compliance Department (ex-prosecutor)- Trade); and Rosemary Joyce (RJ,U. Cal., Berkley-Anthropology). Two slots, one in archaeology and the other a trade representative, remain vacant. KR, NW and JW also served under the Bush Administration. The others are Obama Appointees though PG and MT also served the Clinton Administration. There was also staff present including CPAC Executive Director Maria Kouroupas, a Committee lawyer, and Committee archaeologists.

The following individuals spoke at the meeting in support of the MOU: Carmen Biucchi (Harvard); Brian Daniels (U. Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Center); Nathan Elkins (Baylor); Jane Evans (Temple); Raymond Ewing (CAARI); Ellen Hersher (CAARI); Anne Marie Knobloch (Virginia Tech); Laetitia La Follette (U. Mass./ AIA); Andrew McCarthy (CAARI); Joanna Smith (Princeton); Chris Shaegel (U. Cyprus); Tom Kline (Andrews Kurth); Josh Knerly (AAMD).

The following individuals spoke against the MOU: Peter Tompa (IAPN/PNG); Wayne Sayles (ACCG); and Eloise Ullman (ICTA). In addition, 77% of the comments recorded on the website either opposed the MOU or their extension to coins.

Carmen Biucchi (Harvard) indicated that coins provide important documentation of early Cypriot history because there are few written sources. Even low value bronze coins are important because they frequently appear at archaeological sites. We need to all work together to preserve the past. Cypriot coins are relatively uncommon. In response to a question, Biucchi indicated that it is relatively easy to trace expensive coins due to their appearance at auction, but this is not the case for less expensive coins. She also indicated that metal detectors are the problem.

Brian Daniels (U. Penn. Cultural Center) argued for the extension of restrictions to post-Byzantine period ecclesiastical material. He also suggested that US law enforcement pursue better coordination with Cypriot law enforcement, and other countries with strong Greek cultural influence, including Greece itself and Bulgaria.

Nathan Elkins (Baylor) indicated that Cyprus’ cultural property is in jeopardy as proven by a recent large seizure of artifacts, which included bronze and silver coins. There is a large market in the US as demonstrated by the fact that 200 Cypriot coins are currently listed on the V-coins website. Most Cypriot coins circulated locally. If you add together a list prepared by Wayne Sayles of coins found outside of Cyprus and a list Elkins compiled of coins from Cypriot contexts, that shows that Cypriot coinage is much more prevalent in Cyprus than outside of Cyprus.

Jane Evans (Temple) also indicated that it was important to continue restrictions on coins because it is important that their context not be lost.

Raymond Ewing is a former ambassador to Cyprus. He now serves a CAARI’s President. CAARI receives funding from the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Import restrictions should be as closely conformed to Cypriot law, that covers artifacts up to 1850, as possible.

Ellen Hersher is a scholar and archaeologist associated with CAARI. Cyprus has been a specialty for over 40 years. Looting is a historical problem in Cyprus. Looting still goes on until today. Looting only declined during the periods of WWI and WWII and during the 1950’s when British forces were involved in anti-insurgency operations. Wealthy Cypriots have collected Cypriot antiquities since the 19th Century. There is no shame in looting in Cyprus. Increasing efforts are being made to educate the populace. There is a great need for a new museum (the current one dates back to Victorian times) to encourage youth to respect their past. Metal detectors continue to be a serious problem; more legislation is needed. The major collections are grandfathered in. It is Ms. Hersher’s opinion that they are no longer adding much material, but most Cypriots don’t think that looting is wrong. We shouldn’t point fingers at Cyprus, but try to fix the problem.

Anne Marie Knobloch is a CAARI board member, who teaches at Virginia Tech. She is also an AIA member. Cyprus has important religious sanctuaries that need to be studied. Virginia Tech offers students the opportunity to excavate in Cyprus and would like to do more with Cypriot students.

Laetitia La Follette is the AIA’s VP for professional responsibility. She is associated with the University of Massachusetts. Looting remains a problem, including for coins. Because ancient coins are handmade, they are all different and may be traced. The AIA can help draft the designated list. The laws in the Greek Cypriot area need to be tightened. The laws in the North are actually stronger.

Andrew McCarthy is a CAARI trustee. Looting has increased since the 1960’s. There is a famous incident where a tomb was set aside as a dowry. The Department of Antiquities is doing its best to fight against looting. A site where McCarthy works has not suffered looting from 2007-2011. There was one incident where looters struck the site, presumably looking for coins. CAARI gives all documentation created from archaeological investigations to the Department of Antiquities. MOU’s can help educate Cypriots about the importance of their heritage.

Joanna Smith of Princeton is a past CAARI Trustee. Cyprus is an academic cross-roads. Cypriot children are being taught about their history and Cyprus sends exhibits abroad.

Chris Shaegel is from the University of Cyprus. He works closely with CAARI. Because there are few manuscripts that predate 1600, the preservation of Cypriot material culture is important. Coins should be protected and the restrictions should be extended further in time. Icons also need protection. There is no internal market in Cyprus.

Peter Tompa spoke for IAPN and PNG, two trade associations that represent the small business of the numismatic trade. Each Committee member must ask themselves whether they can do so in good conscious after considering these undisputed facts: (1) Coins were evidently placed on the designated list on the orders of former Undersecretary Nicholas Burns as a “thank you” to Cypriot advocacy groups which had given him an award; (2) Jay Kislak, CPAC’s former chair, has stated under oath that the State Department misled Congress and the Public about CPAC’s vote against import restrictions on coins: (3)In 2007, the AIA claimed that Cypriot coins “rarely circulated” to justify restrictions on “coins of Cypriot type.” However, a top Cypriot official has admitted that “It is true that Cypriot coins shared the same destiny as all other coins of the ancient world. As a standard media of exchange they circulated all over the ancient world due to their small size, which facilitated their easy transport…” Moreover, this view has substantial scholarly support; (4) The CPIA requires less drastic remedies to be tried first before import restrictions are imposed, but Cyprus has no coherent regulatory scheme for metal detectors and even allows British tourists to bring them to the Island; and (5) Restrictions imposed on unprovenanced “coins of Cypriot type” only discriminate against American collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic trade; such coins may be shipped from abroad to anywhere but the USA, including Cyprus.

Moreover, he stated that there is no good reason to renew the MOU for yet another 5 years. Cyprus has already had the benefit of restrictions since 1999 on ethnological artifacts and 2002 on archaeological artifacts. Yet, a Swiss scholar reports most looted material 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. Thus, restrictions only discriminate against American collectors.

In response to a question from JW, Tompa indicated it was wrong to so burden the small businesses of the numismatic trade just so archaeologists might occasionally get some relevant information about dating sites from a coin. He also disputed the claim by JL that import restrictions are easy to comply with. He noted that US Customs will not allow entry of coins and other antiquities unless they are pictured in a catalogue that predates restrictions. Thus, even the difficult to obtain certifications are not enough for Customs.

Wayne Sayles indicated that the ACCG represents the interests of the approximately 50,000 serious ancient coin collectors in the United States. The ACCG is interested in fair and equitable application of US law. The CPIA was meant to protect significant artifacts, not everything under the sun. In response to a question from PG, Wayne Sayles indicated that it is unrealistic to ask the small businesses of the numismatic trade to provide provenance information for every coin they import.

Eloise Ullman indicated that most ICTA members have under 5 employees. She also noted that President Obama recently recognized that it is important not to overburden small businesses with paperwork when his administration signed onto an effort to end a burdensome requirement that coin dealers prepare 1099 forms for every purchase over $600.

Tom Kline disclosed that he previously represented Cyprus. He stated that Cyprus is a leader in protecting its own cultural property, but takes a reasonable approach in doing so. The Turkish Republic is an illegal regime so he disputes that DOS look to their laws on antiquities as models. We need higher ethical standards from collectors. The import restrictions on coins should be no big deal because the restrictions only date from 2007. Collectors only have themselves to blame if they do not keep adequate documentation.

Josh Knerly spoke on behalf of the AAMD which supports the MOU with Cyprus with some limited provisos. First, the AAMD would like to know more about a proposal to extend restrictions to new types of ecclesiastical objects. It appears members of the archaeological community know details of the request, but these have not been shared by the public at large. KR asked why no Museum Director was present. Knerly indicated he would determine if some curators with specialized knowledge would be able to testify in the future.


Anonymous said...

How much has looting declined since the MOUs were originally signed?

Cultural Property Observer said...

None if you believe what they say. That suggests that the restrictions are ineffective and should be ended.

Ellen said...

Please note that not only is my name misspelled in this account, but the affiliation given for me is erroneous: I am not affiliated with CAARI. There are numerous other errors in names and affiliations in this account. For an accurate listing of those who spoke, see either the AIA's account or the State Department's website. Ellen Herscher

Cultural Property Observer said...

My apologies for the misspelling. I would note a 2010 CAARI newsletter identifies Ms. Herscher as CAARI's VP, though that evidently is no longer the case.