The outgoing Obama Administration has gifted Egypt's authoritarian government, its cultural bureaucracy and supportive archaeologists with a MOU that will likely ban import of undocumented Egyptian antiquities created before 1517.
In so doing, the Administration has ignored 91% of the public comment to CPAC which raised serious concerns with any MOU. Moreover, the decision once again raises the question whether there was any "done deal" from the outset.
Implementing regulations are expected soon.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Friday, November 25, 2016
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Larry Schwartz has confirmed collector concerns about how the State Department has administered the CPIA in a video prepared on behalf of the Antiquities Coalition, an archaeological advocacy group. For Schwartz and the State Department, MOUs only stem the flow of "illegal" antiquities; not legal antiquities openly sold abroad that don't meet stringent documentation requirements. The CPIA's legal requirements are "not hard;" there are no real procedural and substantive constraints before import restrictions may be approved. The burden of proof is on the importer; artifacts can be seized and forfeited without proof they were first discovered within and subject to the export control of the country for which restrictions are given. And, of course, State sees itself as a partner with foreign cultural bureaucracies, academic archaeologists that depend on these foreign bureaucracies for excavation permits and their advocacy groups. But what rule of law and the interests of museums, collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic and antiquities trade? They apparently don't rate, something that hopefully will be addressed when a new administration takes over in January.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Import restrictions on Greek cultural goods have been extended but not expanded despite the best efforts of the archaeological lobby to include all coins made or potentially found in Greece. (Current restrictions encompass many archaic, classical and provincial types, but exclude Ancient Greek "trade" coins like Athenian Tetradrachms.)
Despite this "win," CPO hopes the new Trump Administration will review all current MOUs. Unfortunately, they have become little more than a special interest program for a small group of connected academic archaeologists and the cultural bureaucracies of countries where they excavate.
Meanwhile, the interests of ordinary Americans who collect ancient coins and other cultural artifacts and our great museums have been damaged for years by hard to comply with import restrictions.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
As the Sisi dicatorship and its apologists would have it, Egypt is a victim trying to reclaim its cultural heritage from rich, foreign collectors. Yet, others suggest the real problems are endemic corruption, a Pharonic approach to cultural heritage management and extreme poverty.