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:  

No comments: