Thursday, June 6, 2024

U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting About Proposed Cultural Property MOU Renewals with Ecuador and Jordan and a New MOU with Ukraine

 On June 4, 2024, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (“CPAC”) met in a virtual public session to hear public comments regarding proposed renewals of Memorandums of Understanding (“MOUs”) with Ecuador and Jordan and a new proposed MOU with Ukraine.  An update on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (“ECA’s”) website made shortly before the hearing provided further information about the scope of the requests.  See Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting, June 4-6, 2024, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Media Center (April 30, 2024), available at https://eca.state.gov/highlight/cultural-property-advisory-committee-meeting-june-4-6-2024

(last visited June 5, 2024).   That document indicated that neither Ecuador nor Jordan sought restrictions on additional categories of materials.  Ukraine, however, sought restrictions on a wide variety of archaeological and ethnological objects as follows: 

 Ukraine

Protection is sought for archaeological material from the Paleolithic Period (approximately 1.4 million years ago) to 1774 CE, including metal (sculpture, jewelry, weapons, coins, vessels, and horse fittings and trappings); ceramic (sculpture, vessels, and seals); stone (sculpture, monuments, vessels, tools, and jewelry); bone, ivory, wood, horn, and other organic material; glass and faience; paintings and mosaics.  Ethnological materials for which protection is sought span from the Roman Period (3rd century CE) to 1917 CE and include religious, ritual, and ecclesiastical objects; rare books, manuscripts, and other written documents; architectural elements; objects related to funerary rites and burials, both ritual and secular; paintings; military material; and traditional folk clothing and textiles.  

 Id.   

 The CPAC members did not introduce themselves before the public section, but CPAC currently includes the following members: (1) Alexandra Jones (Chair, Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields, CEO Archaeology in the Community, Washington, DC); (2) Alex Barker (Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields) Director, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Arkansas); (3) Mirriam Stark, Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields, Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii); (4) Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome (Represents/Expertise Museums, Curator and Department head, Detroit Museum of Art); ( (5) Andrew Conners (Represents/Expertise Museums, Director, Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico); (6) Michael Findlay (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property, Director, Acquavella Galleries, New York); (7) Amy Cappellazzo, Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property, Principal, Art Intelligence Global; (8) Cynthia Herbert (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property President, Appretium Appraisal Services LLC, Connecticut); (9) Thomas R. Lamont (Represents Public, President of Lamont Consulting Services, LLC, Illinois);  (10) Susan Schoenfeld Harrington  (Represents Public, Past Deputy Finance Chair, Democratic National Committee, Past Board member, China Art Foundation); and, (11) William Teitelman (Represents General Public, Legislative Counsel to the PA Trial Lawyers Association, Attorney (Retired)).

 The meeting was conducted entirely on Zoom.  At least the following members were present:  Jones; Teitelman; Quarcoopome; and Stark.  CPAC’s executive director, Allison Davis, was also present.

 The Chair, Alexandra Jones, welcomed the speakers.  She indicated that speakers would be given four minutes each given the number of oral comments. 

Dr. Chris Jasparro, Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department and Director of the Africa Regional Studies Group at the Naval War College, spoke first.  He indicated that a MOU with Ukraine would be an important tool to fight organized crime and Russian aggression.  Jasparro maintained that Russian forces destroyed archaeological sites, but also looted small items which would then enter international markets.  He also indicated that a MOU could act as a token of American support for Ukraine.  He further maintained that “stolen antiquities” were used to test smuggling routes for other, more dangerous items.  The factual basis for this contention is unclear. 

Dr. Patricial Juninska of Artyfact, an archaeological management company, spoke next.  She indicated that 341 Kurgans or burial mounds have been damaged during the war.  She believed that a MOU will demonstrate our support for Ukraine and its efforts at preservation during a difficult time.

Dr. Sam Hardy of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) spoke next.  He indicated that Ukraine has struggled for years against looters.  Russian looting and destruction of cultural heritage is being investigated as a war crime.  Looting incentivizes corruption.  Hardy has found social media indicating that Russian mercenaries have been trading in antiquities. One of these individuals was pictured with Russian President Putin and former Russian Defense Minister Shoigu.

 Adam Rabinowitz, an Associate Professor at University of Texas at Austin, spoke next.  Rabinowitz is familiar with Ukraine through his prior work at Chersonesus.  Rabinowitz believes that much of the looting caused by the war is of small metal objects.  He noted that metal detectors are widely available in Ukraine and that artifacts like coins will be found by farmers during demining operations.  He believed that farmers and others will be tempted to sell such material on eBay, and this material should be kept off the market.  He maintained Ukrainian officials are doing the best they can under the circumstances and have thus have met the Cultural Property Implementation Act’s (“CPIA’s”) self-help requirements.

His written testimony may be found here:  https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0049 (last visited June 5, 2024).

 Randolph Myers next spoke on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (“ACCG”).   Myers chastised the State Department for failing to meet the notice requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.  He indicated that circulation of coinage is complex, and one cannot assume many coin types are found in Ukraine given their much wider circulation patterns.  He also indicated that the United Kingdom’s Portable Antiquities Scheme provides an excellent example of a “less drastic measure” that should be adopted before import restrictions are imposed. 

 The ACCG’s and the American Numismatic Association’s testimony on Ukraine can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0010 (last visited June 5, 2024).

 Their testimony on Jordan can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0011 (last visited June 5, 2024).

 Peter Tompa next spoke as the Executive Director of the International Association of Professional Numismatists (“IAPN”).   He raised four points.  First,  political geography explains why one cannot assume that coins found in Ecuador, Jordan or Ukraine, are only found there.  Each of these countries were small parts of larger political entities for much of their histories, meaning that coins that circulated within their current boundaries also circulated in quantity elsewhere.  Second, CPAC must consider the realities on the ground, in particular the existence of large open markets in both Jordan and Ukraine.  Given these markets, assisting Jordan and Ukraine to create workable web-based systems of providing export certificates for common items like coins should be contemplated.  Another reality is the use of metal detectors.  The best way to deal with metal detectors is to help Jordan and Ukraine create a working Portable Antiquities Scheme.  Congressional appropriators have highlighted the importance of the CPIA’s reporting requirements, particularly the mandate that “less drastic measures” have to be considered before import restrictions are imposed.  The creation of a workable system of export permits, a portable antiquities scheme and more focused enforcement are just such “less drastic measures” that Congress contemplated. 

 Peter Tompa’s oral comments can be found here:

https://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2024/06/cpac-meeting-to-discuss-renewals-of.html (last visited June 6, 2024).

 His personal comments can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0039 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 IAPN’s comments on the proposed renewal of the MOU with Ecuador can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0003  (Last visited June 6, 2024).

 IAPN’s comments on the proposed renewal of the MOU with Jordan can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0004  (last visited June 6, 2024)

 IAPN’s comments on the proposed MOU with Ukraine can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0012 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 Elias Gerasoulis next spoke on behalf of the Global Heritage Alliance (“GHA”) as its executive director.  GHA submitted joint testimony with its sister organization, the Committee for Cultural Policy (“CCP”).  Gerasoulis focused his comments on Jordan.  He also indicated that Kate FitzGibbon, his colleague from the CCP was unavailable, so he would also be available to answer any questions about Ecuador and Ukraine.  He noted that the State Department previously approved its MOU with Jordan based on historic looting that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries.  He also called out Jordan for allowing sales of coins at the Petra archaeological site and at a bourse in Amman.   He argued that such internal sales of coins to locals and tourists was inconsistent with any effort to embargo their entry into the United States.  He mentioned that the coin bourse in Amman was opened by a Jordanian princess, which suggested that it was an event sanctioned by the Jordanian government. 

 One CPAC member asked Gerasoulis about the lack of evidence being provided regarding current looting in Jordan.  Gerasoulis indicates he would welcome such evidence, but none had been provided publicly by either the State Department or Jordan for purposes of justifying this renewal. 

 GHA’s and CCP’s comments regarding the renewal of the MOU with Ecuador can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0045 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 Their comments regarding the renewal of the MOU with Jordan can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0036 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 Their comments regarding the proposed MOU with Ukraine could be found here:  https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0053 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 Katie Paul spoke as the founder and co-director of the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project.  Paul discussed her advocacy group’s use of screen shots taken from eBay and other social media platforms as evidence of significant looting that must be addressed.  She maintained there was no legal market for archaeological objects in Jordan.  Despite evidence submitted by IAPN, GHA, and CCP to the contrary, she maintained that there was no legal market for coins in Jordan.  She noted that Jordan does have a numismatic museum instead.  Paul stated that Ukrainian metal detectorists sell directly to American buyers.  She indicated that a hoard of 2,500 coins from the Black Sea coast was recovered by the authorities.  She further indicated that Ukraine needs US assistance to stem widespread looting.

 ATHAR’s comments regarding the proposed renewal of the MOU with Jordan are here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0050 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 ATHAR’s comments regarding the proposed MOU with Ukraine can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0052 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 Morag Kersel is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at DePaul University in Chicago.  She spoke from Jordan where she is working.  Professor Kersel discussed her “Follow the Pots” project which tracked looted biblical era pots on the market.  Biblical era materials are in demand in the United States.  She also discussed the cooperation of the Jordanian government with American archaeologists and museums.  She believed that the MOU should be renewed.

 Professor Kersel’s comments can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0041 (last visited June 6, 2024).

 James Zeidler is an Emeritus Research Professor at Colorado State University.  Zeidler has excavated in Ecuador for the past 50 years.  He indicated that looting has declined in Ecuador since the 1980’s due to increased enforcement and better community engagement.  Though looting has declined, he maintained that the current MOU still should be renewed to help protect Ecuadorian cultural heritage. 

 Professor Zeidler’s comments can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2024-0015-0044 (last visited June 6, 2024).

Sarah Rowe is an Associate Professor Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  Professor Rowe commended Ecuador for its efforts at community engagement including the training of local and foreign archaeologists.  She also praised the creation of the first code of archaeological ethics for Latin America in Ecuador as well as programs with local communities aimed at discouraging looting. 

 Dr. Ömür Harmanşah spoke as the Vice President for Cultural Heritage, Archaeological Institute of America (“AIA”).  Harmanşah indicated that the AIA strongly supported a MOU with Ukraine to help address Russian looting of archaeological objects.  He noted that Ukraine sent museum displays to the U.S. in the 2,000s.  He believed the MOU could also address illicit digs in the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

 The AIA’s comments on the renewals for Ecuador and Jordan and the new MOU for Ukraine are not available in the record posted in regulations.gov, but they are posted here: 

https://www.archaeological.org/aia-submits-letters-to-u-s-cultural-property-advisory-committee/ (last visited June 6, 2024).

 Tess Davis spoke as the Executive Director for the Antiquities Coalition, an archaeological advocacy group.  Ms. Davis indicated that she also serves on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University and is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.  Ms. Davis discussed her work in Cambodia exposing the Latchford criminal network.  She maintained that import restrictions are “consumer protection measures” that help keep “stolen” artifacts off the market.  She also indicated that the Antiquities Coalition works closely with both the State Department, G-13 countries and individual source countries to facilitate cultural property MOUs and other restrictions on the trade meant to deter illicit trade.  She maintained that CPIA import restrictions can be complied with “simply”  with the required documentation. 

 Jeremy Sabaloff is an American anthropologist and past president of the Santa Fe Institute.  Sabaloff previously served as CPAC’s Chair during the Obama Administration.  Sabaloff did not speak directly about any of the MOUs.  Instead, he praised the work of CPAC and the importance of MOUs to our foreign relations and fostering “legitimate” trade. 

 Chair Alexandra Jones closed the CPAC public session about 10 minutes before the one hour allotted for the meeting expired.  Despite the additional time that was available, there were no additional questions from CPAC members. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

CPAC Meeting to Discuss Renewals of MOUs with Ecuador and Jordan and new request from Ukraine: 4 Points for 4 Minutes

 Here is what I said at today's CPAC meeting:

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of IAPN and the micro businesses of the numismatic trade.   I would like to make these 4 points in my 4 minutes allotted.

1.     For most of their histories, Ecuador, Jordan, and Ukraine were parts of larger political entities.  IAPN uploaded historical maps of Ukraine into the record to drive home that point.  Political geography helps explain why coins that circulated within what is today each country also circulated regionally or even internationally.   One simply cannot assume that coins found in each of these countries are only found there, a key requirement of the CPIA.  CPAC must avoid blessing overbroad designated lists that do not comply with CPIA requirements.  Fact based decision-making must prevail.

 

2.     CPAC  must consider the realities on the ground. There are open markets for coins within both Jordan and Ukraine.  In Jordan, this market exists both at the Petra archaeological site and in Amman, the nation’s capital.  In Ukraine, there is a sophisticated auction website selling coins.  Given these realities, assisting Jordan and Ukraine to create a workable web-based system of providing export certificates for common items like coins as contemplated both by the CPIA and UNESCO Convention is essential.

 

3.     Another reality on the ground is the use of metal detectors.  In Ukraine, such metal detectors are openly available for sale.  The best way to deal with metal detectors is to help Jordan and Ukraine create a working Portable Antiquities Scheme that will encourage finders to report their finds. 

 

4.      Congressional appropriators have highlighted the importance of the CPIA’s reporting requirements, particularly the Congressional mandate that “less drastic measures” have been considered before import restrictions are imposed.   The creation of workable system of export certificates and a portable antiquities scheme as well enforcing restrictions solely prospectively and not as embargoes are just such “less drastic measures” as Congress contemplated.   IAPN urges CPAC and the State Department to heed these requirements.  Congress as well as collectors are looking over your shoulders. 


Friday, April 19, 2024

Bogdanos Becomes Prop for Chinese Propaganda

 Attention-seeking "world culture cop" Matthew Bogdanos has allowed himself and Alvin Bragg's Manhattan DA's office to become a prop for Chinese propaganda of the Communist Party's Xinhua News Agency by repatriating Tibetan cultural heritage to the very same government which has been engaged in "cancelling" Tibetan culture.   Unfortunately, this and the recently renewed State Department MOU with the PRC recognizes the rights of China's authoritarian Communist Government to the cultural heritage of its repressed minority populations.  The basis for the seizure is unclear, but even if it were a valid one, why shouldn't such materials instead be given to the representatives of the Tibetan people in exile?  

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

US Customs and State Department issue more grossly overbroad restrictions on behalf of another unfriendly authoritarian government, this time Pakistan

 The US State Department and its Cultural Heritage Center have again  deputized U.S. Customs and Homeland Security to enforce the export controls of another unfriendly, authoritarian government, this time Pakistan. It remains unclear how they will apply these exceptionally broad import restrictions, which cover a host of materials also found in Central Asia, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, and, indeed, as far away as Northern Europe.  

The designated list for coins is in particular very broad.  It lists types that circulated regionally as well as internationally, including Roman Imperial coins, which the designated list itself admits are only "sometimes" found in Pakistan.  The entire designated list for coins is as follows:

(5) Coins—Ancient coins include gold, silver, copper, and copper alloy coins in a variety of denominations. Includes gold and silver ingots, which may be plain and/or inscribed. Some of the most well-known types are described below:

(a) Early coins in Pakistan include silver sigloi of the Achaemenid Empire. Gold staters and silver tetradrachms and drachms of Alexander the Great and Philip III Arrhidaeus are also found. Regionally minted Achaemenid-period coins include silver bent bars ( shatamana) with punched symbols such as wheels or suns. Local Hellenistic (Greek)-period and Mauryan imperial punch-marked silver coins ( karshapana) are covered with various symbols such as suns, crescents, six-arm designs, hills, peacocks, and others. Circular or square, die-struck cast copper alloy coins with relief symbols and/or animals on one or both sides also date to this period. Approximate Date: 6th-2nd Centuries B.C.

(b) Greco-Bactrian, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, and Indo-Parthian coins include gold staters, silver tetradrachms, drachms, and obols, and copper alloy denominations. Copper alloy coins are often square. The bust of the king, the king on horseback, Greek and Hindu deities, the Buddha, elephants, bulls, and other animals are common designs. The name of the king is often written in Greek, Kharosthi or Brahmi script. Approximate Date: 2nd Century B.C.-1st Century A.D.

(c) Roman Imperial coins struck in silver and bronze are sometimes found in archaeological contexts in Pakistan. Approximate Date: 1st Century B.C.-4th Century A.D.

(d) Kushan coins include gold dinars, silver tetradrachms, and copper alloy denominations. Imagery includes the king as a portrait bust (“Augustus type”), standing figure with a fire altar, or equestrian figure; emblems ( tamgha); and figures from Greek, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Hindu religious traditions. Inscriptions are written in Greek, Bactrian, and/or Brahmi scripts. Approximate Date: A.D. 30-350.

(e) Sasanian coins include gold dinars, silver drachms, obols ( dang), and copper alloy denominations. Imagery includes the bust of the king wearing a large crown and Zoroastrian fire altars and deities. Inscriptions are usually written in Pahlavi, but gold dinars minted in Sindh with Brahmi inscriptions are included. Approximate Date: A.D. 240-651.

(f) Kushano-Sasanian or Kushanshah coins include gold dinars, silver tetradrachms, and copper alloy denominations. Some Kushano-Sasanian coins followed the Kushan style of imagery, while others resemble Sasanian coins. Inscriptions are written in Greek, Bactrian, Brahmi, or Pahlavi scripts. Approximate Date: A.D. 225-365.

(g) Gupta coins include gold dinars and silver and copper alloy denominations. Imagery includes the king in various postures and activities, the queen, Hindu deities, altars, and animals. Inscriptions are usually written in pseudo-Greek or Brahmi script. Approximate Date: A.D. 345-455.

(h) Coins of the Hephthalite, Kidarite, Alchon and Nezak Hun, Rai, Brahmin Chacha, and Turk Shahi Dynasties include silver and copper alloy denominations. Designs resemble Sasanian coins with a portrait bust of the ruler wearing a distinctive crown on the obverse and a fire altar or other Zoroastrian imagery on the reverse. Coins sometimes bear emblems ( tamgha s) and/or inscriptions in Bactrian, Pahlavi, Brahmi, or Nagari script. Designs are sometimes highly schematized. Approximate Date: 5th-9th Centuries A.D.

(i) Hindu Shahi silver coins often bear inscriptions in Nagari or Sharada script and depict a horseman and a bull, or an elephant and a lion. Approximate Date: A.D. 822-1026.

(j) The Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates and the Ghaznavid and Ghurid Empires issued gold dinars, silver dirhams, and copper alloy fulus (singular fals) bearing Arabic inscriptions on both faces. Inscriptions are often enclosed in circles, squares, rings of dots, or an inscription band. Silver and copper alloy denominations of local governors, the Habbari Dynasty of Sindh, and the Emirate of Multan are similar, but some coins of Multan carry inscriptions in Nagari or Sharada. Some Ghaznavid coins carry bilingual inscriptions in Arabic and Sharada scripts, and some bear images of a bull and horseman. Some Ghurid coins bear inscriptions in Devanagari and/or stylized images of a flower, bull, horseman, and/or goddess. Approximate Date: A.D. 712-1206.

(k) The Delhi Sultanate issued gold tankas, silver tankas and jitals, and copper alloy denominations bearing Arabic inscriptions, either enclosed in a circle, scalloped circle, octofoil, flower, square, or inscription band, or covering the full face of the coins. Some bear inscriptions in Devanagari and/or stylized images of a bull, horseman, lion, or goddess. Some coins are square. Approximate Date: A.D. 1206-1526.

(l) The Mughal Empire issued coins such as gold mohurs; silver shahrukhis, rupees, and tankas; copper and copper alloy dams, and other denominations. Coins bear Arabic inscriptions enclosed in a circle, ring of dots, square, or inscription band, or covering the entire face. Some coins are square. Some coins bear an image of the seated emperor, a portrait bust of the emperor, a sun, and/or Zodiac symbols. Approximate Date: A.D. 1526-1749.

It is also frustrating that the very same coins now subject to a State Department embargo are sold quite openly in Pakistan.  Moreover, despite the claim that Assistant Secretary, ECA Lee Satterfield considered "less drastic remedies" before imposing restrictions on coins, the coin trade's suggestions related to focusing restrictions solely on coins traced back to Pakistani contexts, the provision of export certificates, and the creation of a Pakistani Portable Antiquities Scheme were evidently ignored.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

State Department Offers Advance Notice of CPAC Hearing to Address New MOU with Ukraine and Renewals of Current MOUs with Ecuador and Jordan-- UPDATED 4/26/24, 5/6/24

The State Department Cultural Heritage Center has provided advance notice of a proposed MOU with Ukraine and renewals of current MOUs with Ecuador and Jordan. According to this preliminary notice, written comments and requests to speak at the June 4, 2024, CPAC hearing must be received on or before May 28, 2024.

Sympathy for the Ukrainian people and their struggle against Russian imperialism makes it difficult to oppose any MOU, but the State Department must still honor the CPIA’s statutory requirements in processing the request.

The CPIA closely defines archaeological and ethnological objects that may be subject to restrictions.  A threshold consideration for objects to be considered “archaeological or ethnological material” of Ukraine is that they were “first discovered within” Ukrainian territory and “subject to” Ukrainian export control.

This raises a serious question as to coins and other artifacts from the sites of ancient Greek Black Sea colonies that are now in occupied Crimea.   While Ukraine still maintains that Crimea remains part of that country, the reality is that Russia, which has occupied the peninsula since 2014, is unlikely to give up its conquest. 

Of course, there are other issues, particularly related to coins, including whether common types are of “cultural significance” and whether it is proper to assume that they were found on current Ukrainian territory when they were types that circulated regionally or even internationally.  

Overbroad designated lists enforced as embargos are a major concern for collectors.  Although the State Department and their "partner" archaeological advocacy groups claim that import restrictions are directed at current looting of archaeological sites, their impact is much broader.  In fact, they have allowed foreign governments to "claw back" coins and other cultural goods legally sold and available for export on open markets in Europe.   State and Customs then conduct elaborate "repatriation ceremonies" where they claim they are returning "stolen property."  The reality most often is simply that  some unfortunate collector was unable to provide provenance information that just does not exist for most low value items like coins.  Of course, all this goes against the fundamental Anglo-American view that the burden of proof always is on the government to prove guilt, but it is expediency in the name of "soft power" that prevails here.  

The issue of an overbroad designated list certainly already applies to the current import restrictions with Jordan.  Those import restrictions include coins that circulated regionally.  

The Jordanian MOU and its related import restrictions should also raise different questions because the very same types of coins (and pottery) that are now restricted to American citizens are openly available for sale there. 

At least, the current designated list with Ecuador does not include coins.  That makes sense because Spanish Colonial and Republican era coinage that circulated in Ecuador fails to fit the definition of either “archaeological” or “ethnological” objects.   

Nevertheless, the designated list for Ecuador remains overly broad, including colonial era art that stretches the definition of “ethnological objects.”

The legislative history makes clear that the CPIA’s drafters  believed that "ethnological objects" must be the products of what was at the time referred to as “primitive cultures.”  

Update: April 26, 2024-   The regulations.gov link to comment on the proposed MOU with Ukraine and renewals with Ecuador and Jordan is now live and can be found HERE.  

Update: May 6, 2025-  The State Department Cultural Heritage Center has confirmed fears that Ukraine is asking for very broad based import restrictions in a blog post dated April 30, 2024.  The request includes archaeological objects (including coins) created as recently as 1774 and ethnographic artifacts created as recently as 1917. More here.

 

Monday, February 12, 2024

State Department Inks New and Renewed MOUs with Authoritarian Governments After Giving and Getting A Little Help From Its Friends

In the last several months, the State Department has inked a significant number of cultural property MOUs with authoritarian governments.   These include new MOUs with Uzbekistan and Pakistan as well as renewals of current MOUs with Cambodia and Communist China.  Given their authoritarian nature, it is no surprise that these governments have demanded that such agreements cover the cultural heritage of displaced minorities and a wide array of artifacts, including common ones like collector's coins, which are legally, or at least openly, sold in these countries.  What should be more concerning is that our State Department now apparently feels that "soft power" is more important than honestly balancing the interests of impacted groups as Congress contemplated in the  Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.  And in doing so, the State Department has gone so far as funding archaeological advocacy groups to help "check the box" to help justify such dubious decision making. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Public Meeting of the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee to Consider Renewal with Algeria and Proposed MOU with India

 On January 30, 2024, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met in a virtual public session to hear testimony regarding a proposed renewal of MOUs with Algeria and a new proposed MOU with the Republic of India.  An update on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA’s) website made shortly before the hearing provided further information about the scope of the requests.  See Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting, January 30 – February 1, 2024, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Media Center (November 29, 2023) (but subsequently updated), available at https://eca.state.gov/highlight/cultural-property-advisory-committee-meeting-january-30-february-1-2024 (last visited February 3, 2024).   Although that update was subsequently deleted, it stated that Algeria sought no change to the current exceptionally broad designated list for import restrictions, and that India sought a breathtakingly broad list of items to be covered which included cultural goods made as recently as the end of the British Raj in 1950:

 India

 The Government of India seeks import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological materials dating from 1.7 million years ago to 100 years ago, including objects dating from the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Ancient Periods (including, but not limited to, the Indus Valley Civilization, Maurayan Empire, Shunga Empire, Gandharan Kingdom, Gupta Period, and the Gurjara-Pratihara, Rastrakuta, and Pala Dynasties), and Historic Periods (including, but not limited to, the Chola Dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal Empire, and the British Raj).  Categories of objects include stone tools and artifacts, terracotta figurines, toys, coins and medals, seals and sealing, molds, dies, sculpture, utensils, architectural materials, arms and ammunition, scientific instruments, and jewelry and toiletries.  Protection is also sought for miniature paintings, art pieces in cloth and paper, and manuscripts dating from the 7th century CE to 75 years ago. 

 Id. (but subsequently deleted from the website). 

 The CPAC members did not introduce themselves before the public session, but CPAC currently includes the following members: (1) Alexandra Jones (Chair, Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields, CEO Archaeology in the Community, Washington, DC); (2) Alex Barker (Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields) Director, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Arkansas); (3) Mirriam Stark, Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields, Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii); (4) Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome (Represents/Expertise Museums, Curator and Department head, Detroit Museum of Art); ( (5) Andrew Conners (Represents/Expertise Museums, Director, Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico); (6) Michael Findlay (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property, Director, Acquavella Galleries, New York); (7) Amy Cappellazzo, Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property, Principal, Art Intelligence Global; (8) Cynthia Herbert (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property President, Appretium Appraisal Services LLC, Connecticut); (9) Thomas R. Lamont (Represents Public, President of Lamont Consulting Services, LLC, Illinois);  (10) Susan Schoenfeld Harrington  (Represents Public, Past Deputy Finance Chair, Democratic National Committee, Past Board member, China Art Foundation); and, (11) William Teitelman (Represents General Public, Legislative Counsel to the PA Trial Lawyers Association, Attorney (Retired)).

 The Chair, Alexandra Jones, welcomed the speakers and assured them that their written comments had been read.  She indicated that speakers would be given 5 minutes each. 

 Dr. Mark Lycett was the first speaker.  He is the director at the South Asia Resources Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  He supported the MOU and thought that import restriction will help encourage continued collaboration between the Indian government and American archaeologists.  His talk focused on looting of temple complexes for idols.

 Prof. Miriam Stark (represents archaeology) asked Lycett if he had observed looting.  He says yes, particularly of temple complexes.  He had not seen metal detectors in use but understood they are used.

 His written comments can be found here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0032 (last visited February 3, 2024).

 Kate FitzGibbon (Executive Director, Committee for Cultural Policy) spoke about India.  India has a terrible record of neglect of its archaeological heritage and its government, run by Hindu religious supremacists, has engaged in a policy of destroying the cultural heritage of its Muslim population.  The Indian legal system is ineffective at dealing with looting.   What has been returned already has neglected.   Many of the bronze idols that have been returned suffer from bronze disease because they have not been conserved.  During the British Raj both Indian and British enthusiasts built up great collections, many of which were removed from India right after Independence due to fear that the post-independence Socialist leaning government would confiscate them. 

 Despite Ms. FitzGibbon’s obvious knowledge of the subject, there were no questions. 

 The Committee for Cultural Policy and the Global Heritage Alliance’s written comments on the proposed MOU with India can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0042 (last visited February 3, 2024)

 Sanja Kampoor briefly spoke.  He indicated that he agreed with the points made in Kate FitzGibbon’s testimony. 

 Nicholas Fritz spoke next.  Fritz is a young professional numismatist with Stack’s Bowers auction house.  He indicated that the Indian MOU request as to coins was over broad, including many types well-known to scholarship, which should not be restricted.  He further indicated that an MOU would only encourage smuggling.  

 Alexandra Jones (Chair, representing archaeology) and Miriam Stark (representing archaeology) asked Fritz a series of hostile questions.  Jones wanted to know why modern-day India should not be able to control the heritage of all of historic India (which included Pakistan and Bangladesh), and Stark debated with Fritz about the importance of coins as archaeological artifacts.  (Comment:  The belligerent tone both Ms. Jones and Ms. Stark used with Mr. Fritz did not reflect well either on CPAC or the Biden Administration that appointed them.  If the State Department really wants public comment, it should advise CPAC members of their responsibility to treat members of the public, particularly those who have never appeared before the Committee, with respect.)

 Peter Tompa (Executive Director, International Association of Professional Numismatists) was called to speak next.   He made the point that the designated list for Algeria and the proposed one for India were greatly overbroad, including coin types that circulated far outside these countries.  He also indicated that later coins, particularly of the Raj, do not fit the definitions of either archaeological or ethnological objects necessary for them to be restricted.  All coins of the British Raj are less than 250 years old and hence cannot be treated as archaeological objects under the governing statute. Additionally, they are the products of what at the time were sophisticated industrial practices, so they cannot be treated as ethnological objects.  He also discussed the large internal market in India and how given such a market, import restrictions that only impact American collectors made no sense.  He also noted that collecting is necessary because governments and museums cannot preserve all the coins out there. Finally, he discussed the importance of regulating metal detectors as a self-help measure and a less drastic remedy.  In so doing, Tompa made clear that the British Portable Antiquities scheme and Treasure Act were the preferred method of regulation. Tompa closed by recalling that he had met an Indian collector some years ago who had built up his collection by buying coins from jewelers in India, who would have otherwise melted the coins for bullion.  Tompa provided members of CPAC with a real-world example to show that collectors are essential for the preservation of coins. 

 Miriam Stark (representing archaeology) stated her belief that coins must be restricted because they are important for archaeology.  She demanded to know if Tompa had ever worked at an archaeological site.  He indicated he had not, but he had discussed the issue with others who had.  Tompa indicated that archaeologists mainly see coins as dating tools, but they are generally poor tools for dating archaeological strata because historical coins circulated for long periods of time and only coins from secured contexts were really useful for that purpose.  Stark also asserted that CPAC had no right to suggest that the Indian government regulate metal detectors.  Tompa indicated the governing statute requires as much and before the State Department started issuing generic MOUs, an agreement with Cyprus required as much.  He suggested that Stark should consult with State Department lawyers about the statutory requirements for MOUs. 

 The International Association of Professional Numismatists’ comments for the proposed renewal of the MOU with Algeria can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0029 (last visited February 3, 2024).

 The International Association of Professional Numismatists’ comments for the proposed MOU with India can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0028  (last visited February 3, 2024).

 Tompa’s personal comments can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0036 (last visited February 3, 2024). 

 Randy Myers spoke next on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild.   He raised concerns about insufficient public notice for CPAC meetings, including the details of any requests.  He noted that the State Department website that announced the upcoming CPAC meeting, though dated November 29, 2023, was updated just recently to include more details about the request, but misleadingly without indicating the date the text was modified.  (Perhaps in response, the State Department recently deleted this additional information from the post.)  Myers also reiterated the argument that one cannot assume many of the coins on the Algerian designated list or conceivably might be on the one for India were actually found there.  He also discussed the importance of considering a portable antiquities scheme as a less drastic measure before imposing import restrictions.  Finally, he also indicated that neither Algeria or India should be awarded rights to coin issues of displaced or discriminated minorities.  This would include Christian Spanish and Byzantine coins and many Muslim coins from India.

 Alexandra Jones (chair, representing archaeology) debated with Myers about the notice requirements, maintaining that the State Department only needed to give the public 15 days’ notice.   Myers explained based on his long experience as an attorney for a large federal agency, he believed that the law requires 60 days’ notice.  He also indicated that if Jones wants to encourage informed public comment, 60 days’ notice is essential. 

 The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild’s and the American Numismatic Association’s joint written comments can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0012 (last visited February 3, 2024).

Elias Gerasoulis (Executive Director, Global Heritage Alliance) next spoke on behalf of both the Global Heritage Alliance and the Committee for Cultural Policy with regard to the proposed renewal of the MOU with Algeria.  Gerasoulis indicated that Algeria had failed to meet any of the statutory for renewal.   He further indicated that CPAC should not recommend a renewal of a MOU that recognizes the rights of Algeria’s authoritarian government to the cultural heritage of its displaced Jewish population.

 The Global Heritage Alliance’s and the Committee for Cultural Policy’s comments for the proposed renewal of the MOU with Algeria can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0017 (last visited February 3, 2024).

 Ömür Harmanşah (Vice President for Cultural Heritage, Archaeological Institute of America) spoke briefly in support of both MOUs.  He indicated that both countries had met their statutory burdens and MOUs should be completed with each.  

 The Archaeological Institute of America’s comments with regard to India can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0052 (last visited February 3, 2024).

 Those related to Algeria can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0048 (last visited February 3, 2024).

 Peter Herdrich (Executive Project Director, Algerian Cooperative Plan for the Digitization of HeritageCEO, Cultural Capital Group) discussed a digitization project for Algerian museum and private collections paid for by the US government which also involved the Antiquities Coalition.  Herdrich maintained that this US government funded program showed that Algeria was engaged in protecting its own cultural heritage. (Comment:  There is a real question whether money paid to US contractors who also lobby for MOUs should be considered “self-help.”  See

https://culturalpropertynews.org/careful-collector-no-22-your-tax-dollars-at-work/  (last visited February 5, 2024).)

Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome (representing museums) asked Herdrich if any of these efforts were directed at preserving Jewish and Berber culture.  Hedrich responded by indicating that such materials were included in the inventories of institutions that were partner organizations. 

 Herdrich’s written comments can be found here:

 https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2023-0040-0037 (last visited February 3, 2024).