Wednesday, March 12, 2014

State and CBP Extend Restrictions on Honduran Cultural Goods

State and US Customs have extended restrictions on Honduran pre-Colombian artifacts and have placed new restrictions on ecclesiastical artifacts made as recently as 1821.   The restrictions placed on pre-Columbian artifacts have already been in place for a decade.  Shouldn't this have given Honduras enough time to get its own house in order?

As for new restrictions on ecclesiastical artifacts, there is a real question if they meet Congress' definition of "ethnological artifacts" under the governing statute, Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act or CPIA.

According to CPIA, 19 U.S.C. § 2601 (2) (C) (ii),
no object may be considered to be an object of ethnological interest unless such object is     --
(I) the product of a tribal or nonindustrial society, and
(II) important to the cultural heritage of a people because of its distinctive characteristics,    comparative rarity, or its contribution to the knowledge of the origins, development, or            history of that people.

Furthermore, according to the CPIA’s legislative history, “the [Senate] committee intends this definition, to encompass only what is sometimes termed “primitive” or “tribal” art, such as masks, idols, or totem poles, produced by tribal societies in Africa and South America.  Such artifacts must be important to cultural heritage by possessing characteristics which distinguish them from other objects in the same category providing particular insights into the origins and history of a people.  The committee does not intend the definition of ethnological materials under this title to apply to trinkets or other objects that are common or repetitive or essentially alike in material design, color, or other outstanding characteristics with other objects of the same type, or which have relatively little value for understanding the origins or or history of a particular people or society.”   U.S. Senate Report on the CPIA (Sept. 8, 1982) at 5.

More evidence, if any were needed, that State's Cultural Heritage Center and CBP care little about what the law actually says and are instead only interested in promulgating as extensive embargoes as they can.

And who will stop them?

CPAC-  Not this one, dominated as it is by archaeological interests.

The Courts-- Not to date at least.

Congress-  Not to date at least.

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