Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Egyptian Import Restrictions Notice Published; Conflict of Interest Concerns Raised

The US Government has published an extensive list of artifacts subject to import restrictions pursuant to the MOU with Egypt.  The effective date is 12/5/16.

The designated list restricts the following ancient coin types down to 294 AD:

H. Coins

In copper or bronze, silver, and gold.

1. General—There are a number of references that list Egyptian coin types. Below are some examples. Most Hellenistic and Ptolemaic coin types are listed in R.S. Poole, A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum: Alexandria and the Nomes (London, 1893); J.N. Svoronos, Τα Nομισματα του Κρατουσ των Πτολe μαιων (Münzen der Ptolemäer) (Athens 1904); and R.A. Hazzard, Ptolemaic Coins: An Introduction for Collectors (Toronto, 1985). Examples of catalogues listing the Roman coinage in Egypt are J.G. Milne, Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford, 1933); J.W. Curtis, The Tetradrachms of Roman Egypt (Chicago, 1969); A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and P.P Ripollès, Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69) (London, 1998—revised edition); and A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and I. Carradice, Roman Provincial Coinage II: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69-96) (London, 1999). There are also so-called nwb-nfr coins, which may date to Dynasty 30. See T. Faucher, W. Fischer-Bossert, and S. Dhennin, “Les Monnaies en or aux types hiéroglyphiques nwb nfr,” Bulletin de l'institut français d'archéologie orientale 112 (2012), pp. 147-169.

2. Dynasty 30 —Nwb nfr coins have the hieroglyphs nwb nfr on one side and a horse on the other.

3. Hellenistic and Ptolemaic coins—Struck in gold, silver, and bronze at Alexandria and any other mints that operated within the borders of the modern Egyptian state. Gold coins of and in honor of Alexander the Great, struck at Alexandria and Memphis, depict a helmeted bust of Athena on the obverse and a winged Victory on the reverse. Silver coins of Alexander the Great, struck at Alexandria and Memphis, depict a bust of Herakles wearing the lion skin on the obverse, or “heads” side, and a seated statue of Olympian Zeus on the reverse, or “tails” side. Gold coins of the Ptolemies from Egypt will have jugate portraits on both obverse and reverse, a portrait of the king on the obverse and a cornucopia on the reverse, or a jugate portrait of the king and queen on the obverse and cornucopiae on the reverse. Silver coins of the Ptolemies coins from Egypt tend to depict a portrait of Alexander wearing an elephant skin on the obverse and Athena on the reverse or a portrait Start Printed Page 87808of the reigning king with an eagle on the reverse. Some silver coins have jugate portraits of the king and queen on the obverse. Bronze coins of the Ptolemies commonly depict a head of Zeus (bearded) on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. These iconographical descriptions are non-exclusive and describe only some of the more common examples. There are other types and variants. Approximate date: ca. 332 B.C. through ca. 31 B.C.

4. Roman coins—Struck in silver or bronze at Alexandria and any other mints that operated within the borders of the modern Egyptian state in the territory of the modern state of Egypt until the monetary reforms of Diocletian. The iconography of the coinage in the Roman period varied widely, although a portrait of the reigning emperor is almost always present on the obverse of the coin. Approximate date: ca. 31 B.C. through ca. A.D. 294.

With respect to the wording of the restrictions themselves, Customs has reverted back to restrictions based on place of manufacture rather than find spot. (Recent Syrian import restrictions followed the statutory requirements more closely-- likely because they were receiving special scrutiny in Congress.)

This is significant because such restrictions ignore evidence that demonstrates that Egyptian mint coins are regularly discovered outside of Egypt.  Egypt's so-called "closed monetary system” was meant to keep foreign coins "out" and not Egyptian coins “in.” Hoard evidence confirms Ptolemaic coins from Egyptian mints circulated throughout the Ptolemaic Empire which stretched well beyond the confines of modern-day Egypt.  (And, indeed, some hoards are found outside the Empire's territory.)  They also ignored finds reported under the UK's PAS that show Roman Egyptian Tetradrachms circulated as far away as Roman Britain. 

Finally, it is troubling that Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Educational Affairs, made the decision despite a recusal request made on behalf of numismatic trade and advocacy groups. In CPO's view, Ryan's acceptance of an award from the AIA  raises serious conflict of interest issues, if not a violation of ethics rules concerning the acceptance of gifts and awards.  Of course, the AIA lobbied heavily for a MOU with Egypt, and the AIA's award to Ryan specifically referenced ECA's work in implementing MOU's.  


Voz Earl said...

Yikes. Decided to check in for the first time in a long time and this is a fine how do you do. So even debased tetradrachms from the Roman period are covered? Any chance of a reversal under the incoming administration? At least the possibility of a non-renewal down the road if they ever get around to draining the swamp at State?

Jesse Hoffman

Cultural Property Observer said...

It would be great if the new Administration took a look at these MOUs to see if they really were in the public interest. However, the bureaucracy seems to get what it wants here, particularly because they can always count on support of connected archaeological advocacy groups.