Monday, June 13, 2022

CPAC to Consider Libya and Belize Renewals

                 The State Department Cultural Heritage Center website has provided advance notice that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee will meet to consider renewals of current MOUs with Libya and Belize.  See

                The public may provide written comment in advance of the meeting and/or register to speak in the virtual open session scheduled for July 26, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. EDT.  Both written comments and requests to speak at the open session will be due July 19th. 

                Written comments are to be posted on  An upcoming Federal Register notice should provide details. 

                The Libyan renewal should be controversial for several reasons.  The MOU was originally rushed through after allowing only 5 days for public comment.  At the time, Libya was a failed State with two competing governments propped up by foreign interests.  Subsequently, without seeking input from CPAC, the State Department morphed “emergency import restrictions” into a MOU with the faction headquartered in Tripoli.  Today, Libya remains a failed state where the political stalemate often erupts into open combat.  Each side is well armed with the help of their authoritarian foreign sponsors.  The Tripoli faction is propped up by Turkey with the help of Syrian mercenaries.  In contrast, the Benghazi faction is propped up by Egypt and Russia with Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group providing extra muscle.  The place is so dangerous that no US Embassy has operated there since the ambassador was murdered by terrorists.  Does anyone really believe that artifacts repatriated under this MOU will be safe in such an environment?

                These concerns about the safety of these artifacts are exacerbated because the designated list is so all encompassing.  It covers archaeological material from 12,000 B.C. to 1750 A.D. and Ottoman era ethnological material from 1551 A.D. through 1911 A.D.

                This designated list raises issues of concern to Jewish exile groups and coin collectors.  Jewish groups are concerned that the MOU with Libya recognizes the rights of that government to the cultural heritage of the country’s displaced Jewish minority.  While specific references to Jewish cultural heritage were removed from revised import restrictions associated with the MOU, such material is still implicitly covered because there is no specific exemption as was the case with Morocco. 

                The restrictions on coins are grossly overbroad.  See  In particular, the restrictions empower U.S. Customs to seize Greek silver and gold coins, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins imported from legitimate markets in Europe on the assumption that they are “Libyan” even though such coins circulated regionally and internationally and not “exclusively” or even “primarily” in Libya. 

                By contrast, the MOU with Belize, a Central American Democracy, is much less controversial.  The import restrictions are also broad, applying to a wide variety of archeological material ranging in date from approximately 9000 B.C. to at least 250 years old, including, but not limited to, objects comprised of ceramic, stone, metal, shell, bone, glass, and wood.  The issue there will be whether there will be any effort to expand current import restrictions to ethnographic artifacts or coins. 

Update (6/22/22):  The link from which to comment is now live.  It may be found  here:

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Summary of April 26, 2022, Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting to Discuss Proposed MOU with Islamic Republic of Pakistan

                 On April 26, 2022, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to consider a proposed MOU with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  The following members were present: (1) Stefan Passantino (Chairman- Public); (2) Steven Bledsoe (Public); (3) Karol Wight (Museums); (4) J.D. Demming (Public); (5) Ricardo St. Hilaire (Archaeology); (6) Joan Connelly (Archaeology); Rachael Fulton Brown (Archaeology); (7) Anthony Wisniewski (Collector-Sale of International Cultural Property); (8) Mark Hendricks (Sale of International Cultural Property); and (9) David Tamasi (International Sale of Cultural Property).  Allison Davis, CPAC’s State Department Executive Director, and Michele Prior, also of ECA, were also present.

                Chairman Passantino welcomed the speakers.  He indicated that the Committee had read all the comments which he found helpful and useful.   As there were only four speakers, while a five-minute limit would be observed, there would be time left over for questions. 

                The following speakers addressed the Committee: (1) Dr. Brian Daniels (Archaeological Institute of America); (2) Randy Myers (Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG); (3) Peter Tompa (Peter Tompa Law representing the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN)); and (4) Kate FitzGibbon (Committee for Cultural Policy and Global Heritage Alliance).

                Dr. Brian Daniels (BD) indicated there was plenty of evidence of site looting, particularly of Gandharan material.  This was most recently demonstrated by the NY DA’s recent repatriation of Gandharan sculpture.  BD indicated that Pakistan met all the criteria for a MOU.  There are antiquities laws on the books which are now enforced at a regional level.  U.S.-Pakistani archaeological collaborations have taken place at Harappa in Punjab Province, Pakistan.  Pakistani scholars have expressed an interest in supplying loans to US museums. 

                The AIA’s written comments can be found here:

                Randy Myers (RM) focused on two procedural objections and one substantive objection.  He indicates that the notice period of fourteen days is simply too short to elicit much informed comment.  He also indicates that the notice was procedurally deficient because there was little justification provided for the apparent inclusion of coins in this request.  He stated that as a retired U.S. Government attorney who worked on administrative matters, he believed that the notice of this hearing provided to the public to comment was deficient.  Substantively, RM focused on one issue related less drastic measures to be considered before import restrictions may be imposed.  He indicated that Pakistan should consider a program akin to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Act as an alternative to import restrictions on coins.

                The ACCG’s written comments can be found here:

                Peter Tompa (PT) focused on three major points.  First, how can Customs assume a given coin was “first discovered within” and “subject to” Pakistani export control given the overlap in find spots in  Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh?  Second, why restrict coins at all given the existence of a large internal market in Pakistan itself?  The rationale for import restrictions is that they will dampen market demand and hence decrease the incentive for looting, but US import restrictions would only have a negligible impact on demand because the primary market for Pakistani coins appears to be within Pakistan itself.  Finally, even if coins are restricted, CPAC should condition any import restrictions on coins on the provision the availability of easily obtainable export certificates. 

                The IAPN’s written comments can be found here:

                Kate FitzGibbon (KFG) starts her presentation discussing a screen shot posted on Twitter from 2020 showing construction workers smashing a large Gandharan Buddhist statue with sledgehammers in the city of Mardan, Pakistan.  She goes on to describe poor stewardship of Pakistan’s cultural heritage that goes back at least to the 1970s. She notes that Pakistan has pawned off caring for cultural heritage to localities and that a scant $300,000 is spent annually on archaeology, which mostly goes to salaries of the cultural heritage bureaucracy.  She suggests that lack of interest, lack of education and discomfort about teaching pre-Islamic history in schools are major culprits. However, the main problem is top to bottom corruption in Pakistani society.  She urges that the State Department provide grants and educational help to try to build a cultural infrastructure that will enable basic protections inside Pakistan. She indicates this will be far more effective in safeguarding heritage than an MOU that will have no domestic effect inside Pakistan, and no legal justification under US law.

                The CCPs and GHAs written submission can be found here:  

                Chairman Passantino then allowed CPAC members a brief time for questions.

                Anthony Wisniewski asks KFG about open sales of cultural heritage in Pakistan.  She noted that coins are widely sold at the bazar in Peshawar.  She also indicates that items like old copper pots are often repurposed, noting that a pot she once owned while she lived in Pakistan showed up as a prop on a Pakistani TV program.  She also indicated that beautiful old wooden architectural carvings are shipped out of Pakistan by the container load.  The use of modern air conditioning has prompted homeowners to strip wood decorations out of their homes because it does not react well to an air-conditioned environment.  KFG does not believe a MOU will have any positive impact on the preservation of cultural heritage because of the endemic corruption in Pakistan. 

                Rachael Fulton Brown asks KFG if she believes import restrictions limited to specific period like the Hellenistic and Gandharan period could be effective.  KFG did not believe so because of the endemic corruption.  She also notes in passing that the material seized by the NY DA left Pakistan at least ten years ago and much of it appeared to be fake. 

                Ricardo St. Hilaire asks BD if he agrees with KFG’s characterizations of an internal market in Pakistan.  He indicates that while such a market is tolerated, that does not mean that it legal or that such material would be allowed to be exported. BD believes that a MOU would function as a loadstar to encourage Pakistani officials to crack down on corruption and the illicit trade. 

                Karol Wight asks BD to comment on museum loans in the absence of an AAMD (Association of Art Museum Directors) representative speaking.  BD indicates there has been efforts to secure loans.  He suggests that the visa problems Pakistani couriers had transporting an exhibit to the Asia Society may have made Pakistan gun shy.  He believes that a MOU could smooth over such issues.

                Mark Hendricks asks BD whether he believes that the existence of a large internal market in Pakistan will limit the impact of a MOU on looting. BD believes that a MOU will help encourage Pakistani officials to crack down on illegal activity and prohibit illicit exports.

                Anthony Wisniewski asks BD if items made in quantity can have cultural significance.  BD answers they can because studying groups of objects can tell us significant things about ancient cultures.  He gives the example of the forensic examination of the metallurgy of a collection of bronze ingots.

                Anthony Wisniewski asks PT whether a coin made outside of Pakistan could be claimed as Pakistani under the CPIA.  PT indicated this would require Pakistan to demonstrate with scholarly evidence that the coin type was only found in Pakistan or show that a particular coin actually came from there.  He also indicated that it would be difficult to show that such a coin had cultural significance to Pakistan.  PT believes that BD has confused archaeological interest with cultural significance, which requires an object to have importance to a given culture.  He indicated that it would be difficult for Pakistan to show that a coin made outside of Pakistan had cultural significance to Pakistan.             

                Chairman Passantino then thanked the speakers and CPAC went into a recess before reconvening in a closed session. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

CPAC to Consider New MOU with Pakistan

The State Department has announced that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee will meet on April 26-27 to consider a request for the United States to enter into a cultural property MOU with the Islamic Republic of  Pakistan.  According to the Federal Register Notice, public comments and requests to speak are due no later than April 19, 2022 for the public session which will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM on April 26, 2022.  

The Cultural Heritage Center's website indicates the exceptional breadth of the Pakistani request.  That request covers the lower Paleolithic period through the first half of the 20th century:

The Government of Pakistan seeks import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material from the Lower Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Historic Pre-Muslim Period, Early Muslim Period, Mughal, Sikh, and Colonial periods through the creation of Pakistan.  Requested archaeological material includes, but is not limited to, stone; ceramics; metal objects including coins; stucco/plaster; glassware; bone, ivory, shell, and horn; manuscripts, paintings, proclamations, deeds, books, and documents; textiles of silk, wool, leather; and wood, dating from the lower Paleolithic (2 million years before present) through the first half of the twentieth century A.D. Requested ethnological material includes, but is not limited to stone; ceramics; metal objects including coins; stucco/plaster; glassware; bone, ivory, shell, and horn; manuscripts, paintings, proclamations, deeds, books, and documents; textiles of silk, wool, leather, and wood objects both architectural and moveable objects; and wooden objects dating from the Pre-Muslim Historic period through the first half of the twentieth century A.D.

The request should raise a number of important general questions.  First, are all the listed archaeological objects not only of "archaeological interest" but of "cultural significance," and do they meet the governing statute's 250 year threshold? Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 19 USC Section 2601 (C) (i) (I)(II). Second, are all the listed ethnological objects really the products of "tribal or nonindustrial society" "that are important to the cultural heritage of a people because of its distinctive characteristics, comparative rarity, or its contributions to the knowledge origins, development or history of that people?"  19 USC Section 2601 (C) (ii) (I)(II).

Third, has Pakistan taken "measures consistent with the [1970 UNESCO] Convention to protect its cultural patrimony" under 19 USC Section 2602 (a) (1) (B) when concerns have been raised about Pakistan's notoriously poor stewardship of its own cultural heritage, including not only neglect but theft and outright disrespect for minority cultural heritage.

Finally, does the State Department intend to recognize the Islamic Republic's rights to ownership and/or control of the cultural heritage of  today's small Hindu, Christian and Jewish communities?  These groups have suffered from severe discrimination, and such recognition would raise the same concerns as has been expressed with other controversial MOUs with authoritarian Middle Eastern countries.  There also is the issue of ancient Buddhist statuary which has not only suffered neglect and disrespect as noted above, but outright destruction from local iconoclasts.  

Coins also raise a number of  specific issues.  First, there appears to be a substantial overlap in the types of Indo-Greek, Kushan, Indo-Sassanian, Turkish and later Islamic coins found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  Under the circumstances, how can the State Department conclude that particular coins were "first discovered within and [are] subject to export control by" Pakistan? 19 USC Section 2601 (2) (C).

Second, coins of all periods are legally bought and sold in Pakistan. So, why should our State Department restrict Americans from buying the same type of "Pakistani" coins abroad?

Finally, metal detectors are in wide use in Pakistan.  That raises the question if they first should be regulated as both a "self-help" measure and "less drastic" remedy before import restrictions are placed on American coin collectors.  See 19 USC Section 2602 (a) (1) (A) (B).  

How to comment?  According to the State Department, 

For general comments, use, enter the docket [DOS-2022-0008], and follow the prompts.

Unfortunately, the links provided to comment do not appear yet to be active.  CPO hopes to update this post as soon as comments are accepted.

UPDATE (4/6/22):  The blue "comment now" button is now active on the website.  It may be accessed here.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Import Restrictions on "Albanian" Coins Announced

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced new import restrictions on "Albanian coins" as part of another overbroad laundry list of import restrictions on anything and everything that may be found in Albania from 300,000 B.C. to 1913.

Effective date:  March 17, 2022

Source: 87 FR 15079-15084 (March 17, 2022), available at               import-restrictions-on-categories-of-archaeological-and-ethnological-material-of

The Designated list of coins subject to import restrictions is as follows. 

8. Coins—This category includes coins of Illyrian, Greek, Macedonian, Roman provincial, Byzantine, Medieval, and Ottoman types that circulated primarily in Albania, ranging in date from approximately the 6th century B.C. to A.D. 1750. Coins were made in copper, bronze, silver, and gold. Examples are generally round, have writing, and show imagery of animals, buildings, symbols, or royal or imperial figures.

Comment:  The designated list of coins is particularly broad and includes coins that circulated regionally as well as internationally.  It goes far beyond coins that "primarily circulated" within Albania. Despite the assumption contained in the regulation, no Greek, Byzantine, and Ottoman types “circulated primarily” within Albania or were even made there.  As for Illyrian coins, hoard evidence indicates that popular cow/calf coins from the Roman Republican period “circulated primarily” in Romania, not Albania.  The only bright spot is that neither Roman Republican nor Roman Imperial coins seem to be restricted. 

A case can be made that the “circulated primarily” standard is statutorily deficient because it is contrary to the CPIA requirement that restricted items must be first discovered within and subject to export control of a particular country.  There also is a fair notice issue because how is a typical collector or dealer to know whether or not a particular issue “circulated primarily” in Albania or not?

It is frustrating that the State Department invites public comment, and then promptly ignores it. Both ACCG and IAPN prepared detailed papers about coin circulation in Albania, but either no one at the State Department bothered to read them or no one cared what facts were presented.

Another abuse of power designed to ensure the broadest possible import restrictions apply.  

Saturday, February 19, 2022

"Emergency" Import Restrictions Imposed on Afghan Cultural Goods to 1920's.

The State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and US Customs and Border Protection have imposed extremely broad "emergency import restrictions" on cultural goods "sourced" to Afghanistan.   The restrictions that were put in place address few of the concerns raised by representatives of museums, collectors and the small and micro businesses of the numismatic and ethnographic art trades at a rushed Cultural Property Advisory Committee meeting that took place on Oct. 5, 2021. 

"The Designated List includes archaeological and ethnological material sourced from Afghanistan. Archaeological material ranges in date from the Paleolithic (50,000 B.C.) through the beginning of the Durrani Dynasty (A.D. 1747). Ethnological material includes architectural objects and wooden objects associated with Afghanistan’s diverse history, from the 9th century A.D. through A.D. 1920." 

A link to the Federal Register Notice announcing the restrictions can be found here.  

The real question is how these restrictions are going to be enforced and if any material that may be seized will be repatriated to the Taliban once diplomatic relations are restored.   CPO also wonders if  these "emergency import restrictions" will morph into a memorandum of understanding with  Afghanistan's Taliban government as was recently done with Libya.  

There also is a significant issue whether these import restrictions were promulgated legally.  As recounted in the Federal Register Notice, a request from the former government of Afghanistan was only acted upon after that government fell.  Although Afghanistan's former government evidently requested a MOU, "emergency import restrictions" which do not require a signed agreement were imposed instead.  Such "emergency import restrictions" also require a "request" from a "State Party."  See 19 USC § 2603 (c) (1).   Thus, the same question arises, can the State Department act based on a "request" of a government that no longer exists?

There also is a significant practical issue for collectors, museums, the trade as well as the representatives of displaced religious and ethnic minorities.  "Emergency restrictions" were contemplated to be imposed on a much narrower range of cultural goods than "regular restrictions."  The baseline requirements of “cultural significance” and “first discovery” still apply, but emergency restrictions otherwise focus on material of particular importance.  In essence, the material must be a “newly discovered type” or from a site of “high cultural significance” that is in danger of “crisis proportions.” 19 USC § 2603 (a).  Alternatively, the object must be part of the remains of a civilization, the record of which is in jeopardy of “crisis proportions,” and restrictions will reduce the danger of pillage.  Id.  Here, in contrast, the "emergency import restrictions" that were imposed are hardly narrow.  Rather, they are instead exceptionally broad, including items produced as late as the 1920's.  

The one bright spot is that the designated list does not include "textiles" under the ethnographic category.  If it did, such import restrictions would potentially devastate the livelihoods of Afghan women who make a living weaving textiles for export.

Aside from that, the exceptionally broad designated list is concerning because import restrictions are not applied prospectively solely to illegal exports made after the effective date of regulations under 19 U.S.C. § 2606, but rather are enforced far more broadly against any import into the U.S. made after the effective date of regulations, i.e., an embargo, not targeted, prospective import restrictions.  It remains to be seen whether the Federal Register's limitation to cultural goods "sourced" to Afghanistan has any effect whatsoever on enforcement.  

Those of the Buddhist faith should be particularly concerned about restrictions encompassing Buddhist material of the sort the Taliban has destroyed in the past.  

The inclusion of musical instruments under ethnological material is particularly chilling given the Taliban's strictures against music and murder of a prominent folk musician. 

The designated list of coins is particularly broad and includes coins that circulated regionally as well as internationally.  It goes far beyond coins that "primarily circulated" within Afghanistan, the State Department's prior standard and encompasses coin types (like Roman Imperial coins) purposely left of prior lists.  Hopefully, such broad restrictions made on an "emergency basis" will not be cited as "precedent" in the future, particularly given the Federal Register's requirement that they be "sourced" to Afghanistan.  

Coins— Ancient coins include gold, silver, copper, and bronze coins; may be hand stamped with units ranging from tetradrachms to dinars; includes gold bun ingots and silver ingots, which may be plain and/or inscribed. Some of the most well-known types are described below:

a. The earliest coins in Afghanistan are Greek silver coins, including tetradrachms and drachmae. Approximate date: 530-333 B.C.

b. During the reign of Darius I, gold staters and silver sigloi were produced in Bactria and Gandhara. Approximate date: 586-550 B.C.

c. Achaemenid coins include round punch-marked coins with one or two punched holes and bent bar coins ( shatamana ). Approximate date: 5th century B.C.

d. Gandhara coins include janapadas, bent bar coins based on the silver sigloi weight. Approximate date: 4th century B.C.

e. Mauryan coins include silver karshapanas with five punches, six arm designs, and/or sun symbols. Weights ranged from 5.5 to 7.2 gm. Approximate date: 322-185 B.C.

f. Gold staters and silver tetradrachms were produced locally after Alexander the Great conquered the region. Approximate date: 327-323 B.C.

g. Greco-Bactrian coins include gold staters, silver tetradrachms, silver and bronze drachms, and a small number of punch-marked coins. The bust of the king with his name written in Greek and Prakit were on the obverse, and Greek deities and images of Buddha were on the reverse. Approximate date: 250-125 B.C.

h. Common Roman Imperial coins found in archaeological contexts in Afghanistan were struck in silver and Start Printed Page 9443 bronze. Approximate date: 1st century B.C.-4th century A.D.

i. Kushan Dynasty coins include silver tetradrachms, copper coin (Augustus type), bronze diadrachms and gold dinars. Imagery includes portrait busts of each king with his emblem ( tamgha) on both sides. Classical Greek and Zoroastrian deities and images of the Buddha are depicted on the reverse. Approximate date: A.D. 19-230.

j. Sassanian coins include silver drachms, silver half drachms, obols ( dang), copper drahms and gold dinars, and gold coins of Shapur II (A.D. 309-379). Starting with Peroz I, mint indication was included on the coins. Sassanian coins may include imagery of Zoroastrian Fire Temples. Approximate date: A.D. 224-651.

k. Hephthalite coins include silver drachms, silver dinars, and small copper and bronze coins. The designs were the same as Sassanian, but they did not put the rulers' names on the coins. Hephthalite coins may include imagery of Zoroastrian Fire Temples. Approximate date: 5th-8th centuries A.D.

l. Turk Shahis coins include silver and copper drachma with portraits of the rulers wearing a distinctive triple crescent crown. The emblems of these Buddhist Turks were also included on the coin. Inscriptions were in Bactrian. Approximate date: A.D. 665-850.

m. Shahiya or Shahis of Kabul coins include silver, bronze, and copper drachma with inscriptions of military and chief commanders. Hindu imagery is included on the coin design. The two main types of images are the bull and horseman and the elephant and lion. Approximate date: A.D. 565-879.

n. Chinese coins belonging primarily to the Tang Dynasty are found in archaeological contexts in Afghanistan. Approximate date: A.D. 618-907.

o. Ghaznavid coins include gold dinars with bilingual inscriptions, Islamic titles in Arabic and Sharda and images of Shiva, Nandi, and Samta Deva. Approximate date: A.D. 977-1186.

p. Ghurid coins include silver and gold tangas with inscriptions and abstract goddess iconography. Approximate date: A.D. 879-1215.

q. Timurid coins include silver and copper tangas and copper dinars, both coin types are decorated with Arabic inscriptions. Approximate date: A.D. 1370 -1507.

r. Mughal coins include shahrukhi, gold mithqal, gold mohur, silver rupee, copper dams, and copper falus. The iconography varies, depending on the ruler, but popular designs include images of the Hindu deities Sita and Ram, portrait busts of the rulers, and the twelve zodiac signs. Approximate date: A.D. 1526-1857.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Summary of January 25, 2022, Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting to Discuss Proposed Renewals and Amendments of MOUs with Cyprus and Mali and a Proposed Renewal of a MOU with Guatemala

                 On January 25, 2022, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to consider proposed renewals and amendments of MOUs with Cyprus and Mali and a proposed renewal of a MOU with Guatemala.  CPAC carried over a discussion of the Cypriot renewal from its October 5, 2021, meeting.  The following members were present: (1) Stefan Passantino (Chairman- Public); (2) Steven Bledsoe (Public); (3) Karol Wight (Museums); (4) J.D. Demming (Public); (5) Ricardo St. Hilaire (Archaeology); (6) Joan Connelly (Archaeology); Rachael Fulton Brown (Archaeology?); (7) Anthony Wisniewski (Collector-Sale of International Cultural Property); (8) Mark Hendricks (Sale of International Cultural Property); and (9) David Tamasi (International Sale of Cultural Property).  Allison Davis, CPAC’s State Department Executive Director, and Michele Prior, also of ECA, were also present.

                Chairman Passantino welcomed the speakers.  He apologized for starting late due to some technical difficulties.  He indicated that the Committee had read all the comments, and speakers could only be allotted 4 minutes time given the busy schedule.  The speakers would be divided up according to subject matter.  The Chair also reserved a short amount of time for questions.

                The following speakers addressed the Committee on Mali: (1) Kathleen Bickford Berzock (Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University); (2) Kate FitzGibbon (Committee for Cultural Policy and Global Heritage Alliance); (3) Susan McIntosh (Rice University). Barbara Arroyo (Society for American Archaeology) addressed the Committee about Guatemala.   The following speakers spoke specifically about import restrictions on coins: (1) Peter Tompa (Peter Tompa Law representing the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN)); (2) Robert Leonard (private collector); and (3) Randy Myers (Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG)).  The following speakers focused their comments on Cyprus: (1) Andrew McCarthy (College of Southern Nevada); (2) Josh Knerly (Hahn Loeser representing Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD); (3) Helena Aroz (HA) (Antiquities Coalition); (4) Lindy Crewe(Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI); and (5) Dr. Despina Pilides (former Curator of Antiquities, Cypriot Department of Antiquities).  The following speakers covered all the MOUs at issue: (1) Dr. Brian Daniels (Archaeological Institute of America); and (2) Dr. Marlene Losier (ML) (Losier Gonz law firm).

                Kathleen Bickford Berzock (KBB) indicates that the Caravans of Gold exhibit demonstrates that Mali has engaged in cultural exchange.  KBB believes that Mali has done all it could to preserve its cultural patrimony despite political instability and the pandemic.

                Kate FitzGibbon (KFG) does not believe Mali has met any of the four determinations before import restrictions may be renewed.  There are minimal exports coming from Mali with only $691 of cultural goods being exported in 2019.  There is a concern with insufficient notice of any amendment.  The Federal Register indicates that the request only goes up to the mid-18th c. while the Cultural Heritage Center’s website suggests that restrictions up to the 1920’s will be considered.  Most of the Malian material on the market was exported during the French Colonial period.  Mali has failed to fund its cultural heritage sector.  MOUs should not be renewed over and over again if they are not making a difference.  Most of the effort to protect Malian cultural heritage seems to have been funded from abroad.  The US Government made a significant grant back in 2020.  We need to insist on better benchmarks before the MOU is renewed.  The real problem in Mali is political turmoil, most recently with a military coup.  There should also be safe haven given to Malian artifacts in the event of further armed conflict that could destroy cultural heritage.

                The Committee for Cultural Policy’s and Global Heritage Alliance’s papers can be found here:




                Susan McIntosh (SM) did not have time to submit written comments.  The MOU with Mali is necessary to reduce looting.  The Malian government has done what it can to protect its own cultural heritage by creating nine cultural missions.  These formerly had been funded by taxes on tourists who are now scarce due to Covid and political instability.  Despite the lack of taxes, the Malian government has still funded this effort to the best of its ability.  Looting remains a problem at least with lower value material.

                Barbara Arroyo (BA) supports renewal of the MOU with Guatemala.  The MOU is important to stem criminal activities.  Most of the problems occur where the government does not have adequate resources to protect cultural heritage.  There is an ongoing effort to work with the Catholic Church to document religious artifacts.  There is still a looting problem.  Recently, the US recovered 257 Guatemalan archaeological items.  US archaeologists have not only funded digs, but the training of Guatemalan archaeologists. 

                The Society for American Archaeology’s papers can be found here:

                Peter Tompa (PT) noted that there were no import restrictions on coins for 25 years after the CPIA was passed into law.  This is not surprising as coins are items of commerce, and while they may be of “archaeological interest,” they are not generally of “cultural significance.”  In 2007, this changed under questionable circumstances that raise fairness questions.  Coin collectors are realists and recognize such import restrictions are here to stay, but a reset is warranted in how they are implemented.  First, to be consistent with the Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”), restrictions should only be placed on coins that are exclusively or actually found in Cyprus.  The State Department’s current standard, based on where a coin “primarily circulated” simply ignores the statutory requirements.  Second, even if this standard is utilized, all Cypriot mint gold coins and Cypriot mint coins of Alexander the Great and his immediate successors struck on an Attic weight standard should be delisted based on hoard evidence.  Third, the State Department should only utilize neutral experts to prepare designated lists and meet and confer with the trade and collectors about such lists.  Under no circumstances should collectors have to guess what coins are restricted and which are not restricted.  Finally, there should be no restrictions on Spanish Colonial and Republican era coins from Guatemalan mints.  These coins either do not meet the 250-year-old threshold for archaeological objects or are not normally discovered on the ground.  They are not ethnological objects because they are not the products of tribal cultures but what were for the time sophisticated industrial processes.  Moreover, one cannot assume they are found in Guatemala because they travelled widely in international commerce and even served as legal tender in the United States until 1857. 

                PT’s oral comments can be found here:

                IAPN’s written comments can be found here:


Cyprus Supplemental:


                Robert Leonard (RL) states that import restrictions should not be extended to Crusader era coins.  Examination of the actual object is essential for proper scholarship, and import blockages will harm the study of medieval Cypriot numismatics in the United States.  Such coins were well known to Italian merchants.  The hoard evidence presented proves that they circulated outside of Cyprus in quantity.  Legitimate Cypriot dealers only sell Cypriot coins imported from abroad.  Import restrictions only hurt American collectors buying such coins from third countries.  It makes absolutely no sense to restrict Guatemalan coins because that would be restricting what were legal tender in the United States. 

                RL’s written testimony can be found here:

                Randy Myers (RM) wants to focus his comments on behalf of the ACCG on one procedural and one substantive issue.  Procedurally, the Federal Register notice fails to indicate specifically that there will be an effort to amend the Cypriot MOU to include more coins.  This does not provide sufficient notice to allow collectors to comment. Substantively, there is no indication that less drastic measures have been considered before import restrictions have been imposed on coins.  One such less drastic measure would be for Cyprus to adopt a program akin to the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme.  This program requires coins that are found to be reported so they can be recorded and gives the State a right of first refusal over coins for a payment of fair market value.  CPAC should also recommend that the State Department honor export permits from fellow EU members for imports of Cypriot coins.

                The ACCG’s written testimony can be found here:

                Andrew McCarthy (AM) states that MOUs are a crucial tool.  Coins should be included because how is he supposed to know if a coin on the market was stolen from his archaeological site unless the burden of proof is placed on collectors to provide a provenance for it.  McCarthy hopes the MOU will be expanded to include both very early material as well as a rolling date for material over 100 years old.  Early settlements have been looted for paleolithic tools.  Archaeological remains of a famous bandit dating from the early 20th century should also be protected. 

                Josh Knerly (JK) focuses on the fourth determination that asks if the application of import restrictions is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural and educational purposes.  He notes that this provision contemplates collaboration far broader than that related to the exchange of archaeological and ethnological material because “cultural property” is far more broadly defined in the CPIA and UNESCO Convention.  He also notes that the boilerplate Article II placed in the current Cypriot MOU fails to set forth specific criteria to facilitate such cultural exchange.  The same issues arise with regard to the MOUs with Guatemala and Mali.  There is a separate “action plan” for Mali which addresses these issues to some extent, but JK questions whether the State Department will allow CPAC to make recommendations to modify it in an effort to stimulate cultural exchange.

                The AAMD’s written testimony on Cyprus can be found here:

                Helena Aroz (HA) viewed the 2016 CPAC proceedings on Cyprus.  MOUs are important in combatting looting and benefit collectors and dealers by keeping looted material off the market.  They complement widely held ethical guidelines.  HA also had the opportunity to excavate in Cyprus where she saw firsthand that looting leads to the loss of important information.  She also had excellent interchanges with the Cypriot people and remembers fondly being invited to attend local weddings.  MOUs are also important in fostering cultural exchange. 

                The Antiquity Coalition’s paper on Cyprus can be found here:

                Lindy Crewe (LC) speaks about CAARI’s efforts as the only on-site American archaeological organization in Cyprus.  CAARI hosts both US scholars and US tourists. It has hosted Fulbright scholars and interacts with the 17 US archaeological digs on Cyprus.  There have been major advances in the study of Byzantine and Colonial era archaeology which also deserves protection.  Looting has also impacted the ability to study DNA when cemeteries are disturbed.    

                Dr. Despina Pilides (DP) strongly supports the MOU.  She previously was the curator for the Department of Antiquities in charge of museums.  She also worked on archaeological digs and has been a Chair of ICOM, the International Council of Museums.  A study indicates that one-half of the Byzantine material that was left in the Turkish occupied zone remains missing.  There needs to be strong protections for Byzantine and Ottoman era artifacts.  There has been an effort to digitize Byzantine era artifacts from the Turkish zone that are in the museum at Nicosia.  Coins are important for Cypriot history and should be protected to help protect the context in which they are found. 

                DP’s written testimony can be found here:

                Dr. Brian Daniels (BD) mentions that the AIA has over 200,000 members [the vast majority of this number are individuals who subscribe to Archaeology Magazine].  The AIA supports renewals of MOUS with Mali, Cyprus and Guatemala.  Import restrictions are an important tool in discouraging looting of archaeological sites. The MOU with Cyprus should be made consistent with that of Greece and Turkey regarding what coins should be covered.  There have been long term loans of objects provided by Cyprus, Guatemala and Mali.  Mali in particular has done what it can despite political turmoil.

                The AIA’s papers can be found here:

                Dr. Marlene Losier (ML) supports renewals and expansion of import restrictions to new categories as part of a “progressive view” of the development of the law.  By entering into such MOUs we encourage other countries to protect our own heritage both abroad and even in space like the Apollo 11 landing site.

                Chairman Passantino then allowed CPAC members a brief time for questions.

                Anthony Wisniewski observed that most of the oral and written testimony reflected the opinions of the speakers.  He also noted that CPAC cannot apply a “progressive view of the law” because it is obliged to apply Congressional statutes as written.  He notes that coin collectors have produced information from third party academic sources that by their nature have a much higher degree of reliability than the arguments of the participants.  He asks PT if he agrees with the statement that those sources show that over 95% of the Cypriot mint coins of Alexander the Great are found outside of Cyprus.  PT agrees.  He then indicates this carries a burden on this point which has not been contested by proponents of the restrictions. 

                Joan Connelly asks DP about the digitization of collections.  DP says some 96,000 objects have been digitized.  There has been a special effort to digitize items in the Nicosia Museum that come from the occupied North of Cyprus.  She then reiterates the importance of coins.

                Karol Wight asks JK about Cyprus’ lack of an immunity from seizure law.  JK indicates such a law patterned on those of other EU countries would help facilitate loans. 

                Chairman Passantino then thanked the speakers and CPAC went into a recess for lunch before reconvening. 

                Some additional testimony on the Cypriot renewal can be found in this summary of CPAC’s October 5, 2021, meeting:  

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Comments from Today's CPAC Hearing: It’s Time for a Reset for Import Restrictions on Coins

 I said this more or less at today's CPAC hearing to discuss proposed renewals of MOUs with Cyprus and Guatemala: 

            I am speaking on behalf of IAPN which represents the micro and small businesses of the numismatic trade.  In many ways, this hearing is a much greater test for CPAC than for ancient coin collectors.  We’ve heard a lot in the past several years about how the system is rigged.  Here, unfortunately, there is convincing evidence that may be the case.  

            For 25 years after the CPIA was passed, there were no restrictions on coins.   This should be no surprise.  Coins are items of commerce.  So, it is difficult for modern nation states to justifiably claim them as their “cultural property.”  They are among the most common of historical artifacts and while they may be of “archaeological interest”, they are generally not of “cultural significance.”  They are avidly collected and traded worldwide including in Cyprus.  It simply makes no sense to preclude Americans from importing such coins.   Indeed, when the CPIA was being discussed, Mark Feldman, a high-ranking State Department lawyer, represented to Congress that it was “hard … to imagine a case where we would need to deal with coins except in the most unusual circumstances.”

            In 2007, all this changed with Cypriot coins.   According to the declarations of two former CPAC Members, including Former Chair Kislak, that change was made against CPAC’s recommendations.  Moreover, there was an attempt to mislead the public and the Congress about CPAC’s opposition to import restrictions on coins.  Even worse, the decision maker made the decision after she had already announced she was leaving for a job at Goldman Sachs, where she was recruited by and worked for the husband of a former AIA trustee and the founder of the Antiquities Coalition, which has been highly active lobbying for import restrictions.  How can such a decision be a fair one?

            We are realists and understand at this point that import restrictions on coins are probably here to stay, but CPAC can still advocate for a reset on how they are implemented.  First, CPAC should insist that the State Department only apply restrictions to coins that are “exclusively found” within Cyprus or to those where there is proof that they were illicitly excavated there.  Only such coins can be “first discovered within, and … subject to export control by” Cyprus as required by the CPIA at 19 U.S.C. § 2601(2).   In contrast, the State Department’s current standard based on where a coin “primarily circulated” simply ignores these requirements.

            Second, even under a “primarily circulated” standard, certain coin types on the current designated list should be removed.  Here, numismatic research proves that all Cypriot mint gold and all Attic standard Hellenistic silver coins of Alexander the Great, Philip and Demetrius did not “primarily circulate” within Cyprus and should be delisted.

            Third, CPAC should ensure that the State Department only uses neutral experts to help prepare designated lists; not ones who have advocated for import restrictions in the past.  At a minimum, State should be directed to meet and confer with collectors and the trade on the contents of these lists.  Under no circumstances should collectors and US Customs be forced to guess what coin types are restricted and which are not, as is the case with the recent Turkish and amended Greek lists.

            Finally, no new restrictions should be contemplated for Guatemalan coins.  Spanish Colonial and Republican era coins are not archaeological in nature; they either do not meet the 250-year threshold and/or are not “normally discovered” within the ground.  Nor do such coins meet the definition of ethnological objects.  They are not the products of tribal cultures but were produced en masse with sophisticated industrial processes.  Finally, due to their wide circulation in international commerce, one cannot assume such coins were “first discovered within” and hence were “subject to export control by” Guatemalan authorities. Indeed, early coins that circulated within Guatemala were also legal tender in the United States until 1857.

            With these recommended actions, CPAC can demonstrate that it operates with fairness and adheres to the CPIA’s statutory requirements. 

            Thank you.