On January 21, 2020, the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee (“CPAC”) met to consider proposed MOU’s with Turkey and Tunisia. CPAC is currently constituted as follows. (1) Stefan Passantino (Public); (2) Adele Chatfield-Taylor (Public); (3) James Reap (Public); (4) Karol Wight (Museums); (5) Nancy C. Wilkie (Archaeology); (6) Ricardo A. St. Hilaire (Archaeology); (7) Lothar Von Falkenhausen (Archaeology); and (8) Anthony Wisniewski (Collector-Sale of International Cultural Property).
Due to the large number of speakers, the Chair indicated each speaker would only be allowed two (2) minutes rather than the usual five (5) minutes. Those speakers in favor of MOU’s with Turkey and/or Tunisia were as follows: (1) Dr. Lynn Dodd; (2) Dr. Jane Evans; (3) Sam Hardy; (4); Dr. Christina Luke; (5) Dr. Brian Rose; (6) Tess Davis; (7) Dr. Nathan Elkins; (8) Dr. Elizabeth Greene; and (9) Katie Paul. Those opposed to one or both MOU’s or their application to certain types of artifacts were as follows: (1) Stephen Knerly; (2) Elias Gerasoulis; (3) Carol Basri; (4) Kate FitzGibbon; (5) Douglas Mudd; (6) Peter Tompa; and (7) Randolph Myers.
Chairman Passatino welcomed the speakers. He indicated that the Committee had read all the comments, particularly those of the speakers. Given the large number of speakers, Mr. Passatino indicated that speakers would be limited to 2 minutes. After all the speakers were finished, he would open up the floor to questions.
Dr. Lynn Dodd is an archaeologist. She supports Turkey’s MOU. She indicates Turkey has met all the criteria to be granted a MOU.
Dr. Jane Evans indicates coins are at risk from metal detectors. She indicates excavation coins typically are local issues that do not circulate far from where they are made so they should be restricted.
Sam Hardy starts his presentation honoring an archaeologist who took his own life rather than taking the blame for embezzlement. He indicates trafficking is a real problem in Turkey. He finds it odd that Turkey would not be granted a MOU because of problems within the country because granting a MOU will encourage positive forces in Turkey to clean up the country’s act.
Dr. Christina Luke works in Turkey. She echoes her support of others for a MOU with Turkey.
Dr. Brian Rose of the University of Pennsylvania has seen looted sites. Looting is a lucrative business that needs to be addressed. Turkey allows US Archaeologists to work in the country, which promotes educational exchange.
Tess Davis and her organization, the Antiquities Coalition, supports the MOU with Turkey. She focuses her comments on the third determination. She indicates there is a concerted international response of market nations now that the EU has promulgated import controls on cultural artifacts.
Stephen Knerly spoke for the Association of Art Museum Directors. He indicates that a MOU in this case would not be appropriate because the Turkish government is involved in state sanctioned looting and destruction of Turkey’s cultural patrimony.
Elias Gerasoulis speaking for the American Hellenic Institute opposes any MOU with Turkey. There is no rule of law in Turkey under Erdogan. A number of Byzantine era cathedrals have been turned from museums into mosques. Over 400 churches have been destroyed in Cyprus. Erdogan has shown disdain for religious minorities and the material remains of their culture.
Dr. Nathan Elkins notes that prior MOUs have focused on coins that have circulated locally, but is time to expand upcoming MOU’s to include Roman Republican, Roman Imperial and Byzantine coins. There are enough MOUs already where coins have been included that now is the time to treat all coins like other objects that are found on different designated lists.
Dr. Elizabeth Greene supports the MOU. MOUs ensure that objects of minority groups are preserved. From her work on shipwrecks, Greene knows that even common artifacts like transport amphorae are important to understanding the past.
Katie Paul speaks for the Athar Project. She shows images of artifacts from Tunisia and Turkey on sale on Facebook. She indicates some buyers are located in the US. She also indicates that she is Pontic Greek. She wants Greek artifacts protected as evidence of the Greek Diaspora.
Carole Basri contrasts her prior work for the State Department to more recent State Department efforts to recognize the rights of authoritarian MENA governments to the artifacts of displaced minority populations. At some risk to her personal safety, Ms. Basri collected records of Jews in Iraq on December 11, 2003 for the State Department. Some of these records were later deposited in the US Holocaust Museum. Carole Basri believes there needs to be a carve-out in any MOU for religious artifacts of displaced Jews and other minority populations.
Kate FitzGibbon speaks for the Committee for Cultural Policy and the Global Heritage Alliance. It is essential that CPAC adhere to the CPIA’s requirements. Turkey has engaged in legalized theft of minority religious artifacts. A book written by a US diplomat discusses the artifacts available in the Grand Bazar for sale to foreigners.
Doug Mudd speaks for the American Numismatic Association. Import restrictions on coins have had a negative impact on the ANA’s educational mission. An instructor at the Summer Seminar was afraid to bring his coins from abroad because he was concerned they would be seized. People can learn from ancient coins which are amongst the most common ancient artifacts.
Peter Tompa speaks for the International Association of Professional Numismatists. Any MOU would recognize the Erdogan Government’s rights to “claw back” cultural goods of “ethnically cleansed” Greek, Armenian and Assyrian populations. Since 2007, a series of grossly over broad import restrictions placed on common ancient coins of the sort widely collected worldwide (including within most of the countries for which import restrictions have been granted) have done quite a bit of damage to ancient coin collecting. Their cumulative impact has been problematic because outside of some valuable Greek coins, most coins simply lack the document trail necessary for legal import under the “safe harbor” provisions of 19 U.S.C. § 2606. Another embargo, this time potentially impacting a wide variety of Greek, Carthaginian, Roman Provincial, Roman and Byzantine coins struck or sometimes found in Turkey and Tunisia, will bring even more damage. As set forth in IAPN's submissions, there are many statutory reasons why this should not happen. Moreover, CPAC also needs to consider whether import restrictions on coins are really necessary, particularly because it appears that both Turkey and Tunisia allow for the internal sale of ancient coins.
Randolph Myers is a coin collector. Coins struck in large multiples lack cultural significance. CPAC should also consider whether less drastic measures, like the institution of a Treasure Act or Portable Antiquity Scheme, should be tried first. Finally, there is no evidence presented that either Turkey or Tunisia are undertaking adequate self-help measures.
Karol Wight asks if the AAMD polled its members about loans from Turkey. Stephen Knerly indicates that because the State Department has started using a standard Article II in their MOU’s there is no reason to seek this information from members. He does note, however, that Turkey demands high loan fees. It would be beneficial to all concerned if Art II of MOU’s (which relate to requirements placed on the foreign country) are written individually.
Anthony Wisniewski asks Kate FitzGibbon if restrictions should be placed on coins. She indicates it is important to look to the wording of the CPIA to ascertain whether restrictions are appropriate. She then defers to Peter Tompa. Peter Tompa indicates restrictions should not be placed on coins, but if they are so placed they must take care that they only apply to coins both first discovered within a country and subject to its export control. He notes that restrictions would be wholly inappropriate on Roman coins which circulated from England to Sri Lanka and which are found in many more countries than where there are MOUs on coins. Dr. Nathan Elkins is allowed to comment. He believes restrictions should come in as long as over 50% of coins are found in a given place, but this should be further expanded to everywhere coins are found.
Anthony Wisniewski asks Dr. Rose about the provenance of coins found in the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Dr. Rose said that the Museum secured these coins years ago under a system of partage.
Chairman Passatino asks Elias Gerasoulis if his group could live with any MOU with conditions to address concerns of the Greek community. Mr. Gerasoulis indicates that his group is unalterably opposed to a MOU because the Erdogan government cannot be trusted. He believes a MOU would make the situation worse, not better. Moreover, this MOU raises questions not only about Greek property, but other minority property as well. For example, how can we trust Turkey to respect Jewish minority property, when Erdogan hosted the leader of Hamas, an anti-Israel U.S. designated terrorist group, at the Presidential palace in Turkey last month? This issue is not simply one of archeology. The political context needs to be looked at and understood.