Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Public Session of the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee to Review Proposed Renewals of MOUs with Bulgaria and China, June 5, 2023

                 On June 5, 2023, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met in a virtual public session to hear testimony regarding the proposed renewals of MOUs with Bulgaria and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  An update on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA’s) website made shortly before the hearing provided further information about the requests.  See (last visited June 7, 2023).  According to that website, Bulgaria has asked for import restrictions on additional categories of archaeological material dating from the Paleolithic Period to the Neolithic (c. 1.6 million years ago – 7500 B.C.) and on additional ethnological material of an ecclesiastical nature dating from 1750 through the 20th century.  Id.  In contrast, the PRC does not seek any additional restrictions.  Id. 

                The public session was postponed from April 26-27, 2023, presumably to allow all the remaining Trump appointees to be replaced by Biden appointees to CPAC.  Those replaced included Anthony Wisniewski, the sole coin collector representative on the Committee.  One of the replacements, Susan Schoenfeld Harrington, has discernable links to the PRC, as a past Board Member of the China Art Foundation.  See (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Despite the postponement, the public was only allowed an exceptionally short time to comment on these MOUs on the website.  See  (last visited June 7, 2023).  Although the Federal Register notice was posted on Friday, May 19, 2023, due to a snafu, the website did not accept comments until midday Monday, May 22, 2023.  The comment period closed only 4 days later, on Friday, May 26, 2023.  An analysis of the comments that were submitted can be found here.  See  (last visited June 7, 2023). 

                Oral comments during the public session were also circumscribed.  Rather than the usual 5 minutes, each speaker was only allotted 4 minutes to speak.   

                At least the following CPAC members were present for the meeting:  (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) Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome (Represents/Expertise Museums, Curator and Department head, Detroit Museum of Art); (4) William Teitelman (Represents General Public, Legislative Counsel to the PA Trial Lawyers Association, Attorney (Retired)); (4) Andrew Conners (Represents/Expertise Museums, Director, Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico); (5) Michael Findlay (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property, Director, Acquavella Galleries, New York); (6) Susan Schoenfeld Harrington  (Represents Public?, Past Deputy Finance Chair, Democratic National Committee, Past Board member, China Art Foundation); (7) Cynthia Herbert (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property President, Appretium Appraisal Services LLC, Connecticut); and (8) Thomas R. Lamont (Represents Public?, President of Lamont Consulting Services, LLC, Illinois).

                Additionally, at least the following State Department employees were present for the meeting:  Allison Davis (Executive Director, CPAC) and Andrew Zander. 

                These individuals spoke at the public session about one or both MOUs: (1) Kate FitzGibbon (Committee for Cultural Policy/PRC); (2) Elias Gerasoulis (Global Heritage Alliance/PRC); (3) Peter Tompa (International Association of Professional Numismatists/Bulgaria and PRC); (4) Doug Davis (Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation/PRC); (5) Ömür Harmanşah (Archaeological Institute of America/Bulgaria and PRC); (6) Douglas Mudd (American Numismatic Association, Ancient Coin Collectors Guild/Bulgaria); (7) Louisa Greve (Uyghur Human Rights Project/PRC); (8) Peter Irwin (Uyghur Human Rights Project/PRC); (8) Josh Knerly (Hahn, Loeser & Parks, LLP for Association of Art Museum Directors/PRC); (9) Dr. Rowan Flad (Harvard Department of Anthropology/Society for American Archaeology/PRC); (10) Dr. Anne Underhill (Yale/Society for American Archaeology/PRC); and (11) Dr. Rian Thum (University of Manchester/PRC). 

                Alexandra Jones (AJ), CPAC’s chairperson, indicated that the Committee had reviewed all the testimony, and asked the speakers to limit their remarks to 4 minutes each.  AJ indicated that she would allow CPAC members to ask questions after each speaker finished their prepared remarks.  Very few questions were actually posed. 

                Kate FitzGibbon (KFG) spoke first.  She indicated that none of the criteria for renewal of the MOU found in the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) could be met.  The second determination, related to the PRC taking measures consistent with the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of its cultural patrimony, has not been met because of the PRC’s intentional destruction of the cultural heritage of its Uyghur population.  KFG pointed to the creation of concentration camps as well as the destruction of over 500 Uyghur sites in her testimony.  Moreover, the first and third determinations, related to the PRC’s cultural patrimony being in jeopardy, and the effectiveness of the response, could not be met given the booming internal Chinese market for cultural goods.  The fourth determination relating to benefits to the international system could not be met given the PRC’s mercantilist approach to repatriating artifacts and failing to follow through on museum loans. 

                The Committee for Cultural Policy’s and the Global Heritage Alliance’s joint written testimony can be found here: ) (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Elias Gerasoulis (EG) echoed many of the concerns that KFG raised about the PRC’s intentional destruction of minority culture.  He also noted that current import restrictions have the perverse effect of promoting the interests of PRC auction houses associated with the government over their American competitors.  It makes no sense for ECA to undertake to renew the MOU given the anti-American actions the PRC has taken, including the recent spy balloon overflight.  EG believes that renewing the MOU would be tantamount to committing diplomatic malpractice.

                Peter Tompa (PT) asked CPAC to oppose any effort to expand current import restrictions on behalf of Bulgaria to Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  He explained that one cannot assume that such coins come from Bulgarian archaeological contexts.  Only a very small percentage of such coins circulated there compared to those which circulated elsewhere.  He also indicated that it is important to distinguish Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins from Roman Provincial coins, which are currently restricted.  Roman Provincial coins were struck for local use in contrast to Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins which were meant to circulate through the Empire.   Due to time constraints, PT was only able to express general concerns about the MOU with the PRC.  He mentioned that the PRC should not be rewarded for destroying the cultural property of its minority populations or for its failure to address counterfeiting of US historical coins.

                PT’s planned oral comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                The International Association of Professional Numismatist’s (IAPN’s) written comments about the MOU with Bulgaria can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                IAPN’s written comments about the MOU with the PRC can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                PT’s personal written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Doug Davis (DD) indicated that the PRC is a major source of counterfeits with 100,000s of coins being faked.  These are exported in bulk to the US for resale, often to unsuspecting buyers.   The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation Task Force has worked with US law enforcement on seizing $46 million worth of counterfeit US coins.  In addition to historical US coins, counterfeiters are also faking modern US Mint products including bullion pieces like silver eagles.  This is a global problem because Chinese counterfeiters are faking coins of all nations. 

                CPAC member Alex Barker asks DD about what kinds of bullion are being faked. DD indicates the fakes include silver bars. 

                The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Ömür Harmanşah (OH) indicates that the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) supports the renewals of both MOUs.  The AIA maintains that each of the four criteria for renewal found in the CPIA are met for both MOUs.  OH mentions that the PRC recovered 66,000 stolen archaeological artifacts in the year 2021 showing that the PRC’s cultural patrimony is in jeopardy.  OH states that it is important to ensure restrictions are imposed on mass produced items like coins to promote their study.  He further indicates that the PRC has worked to ensure that there is extensive collaboration with US archaeologists and museums.  For example, an exhibition featuring the famous “Terracotta warriors” has been exhibited in a number of venues around the United States. 

                The AIA’s written testimony regarding the MOU with Bulgaria can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                The AIA’s written testimony regarding the PRC renewal can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023). 

                Douglas Mudd (DM) speaks on behalf of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG), a member organization.  DM indicates that import restrictions have negatively impacted the study of coins.  Because coins are so durable many have come down to us from ancient times. There are far too few trained archaeologists to study the numbers of coins that have been found and there is no reason to sequester them all in museums.  The most important thing that can be accomplished is to ensure they are properly recorded, something that can be achieved through programs like the UK’s Portable Antiquity Scheme.  DM also asks that import restrictions not be imposed on widely circulating Roman Imperial coins.  He further believes that the current designated list should be subject to expert review because many of the coin types currently on that list circulated in quantity outside of the confines of Bulgaria. 

                The ANA’s written comments can be found here:  (last visited June 7, 2023).

                The ACCG’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Louisa Greve (LG) opposes the MOU with the PRC.  The PRC is committing genocide against the Uyghurs.  CPAC should not brush aside this genocide and cultural cleansing in order to approve the renewal.  The current MOU authorizes import restrictions through the Tang period.  The PRC has sought to rewrite history through cultural cleansing to create a false narrative that Han was the dominant culture throughout what is today the PRC.  If CPAC and ECA approves this MOU, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UYRP) will protest the decision. 

                The UYRP’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Peter Irwin (PI) is LG’s colleague at the UYRP.  The PRC has not worked to protect cultural heritage, but to purposefully destroy that of the Uyghurs.  Some 10,000 to 50,000 sites have been destroyed to date.  These includes mosques and up to 85% of the historic city of Kashgar. The MOU should not be extended in these circumstances. 

                Josh Knerly (JK) stated the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) supports the extension of the MOU with the PRC contingent on Article II being modified to provide for multi-year museum loans with more significant objects and the PRC granting immunity from seizure for art sent there for display from the US.  The 2019 MOU dropped any meaningful requirements regarding loans.  Multi-year loans are necessary to make it cost effective to bring exhibits to the US.  Only multi-year loans allow museums to share the substantial costs involved. Another issue is US tariffs of 7.5% on Chinese art, which make it impossible for US museums to purchase Chinese art internationally.  Such tariffs give Chinese museums, dealers and collectors a competitive advantage compared to their American counterparts. 

                CPAC member Susan Schoenfeld Harrington asks JK if the MOU provides an opportunity for cultural exchange with the PRC.  JK indicates for this to happen, the PRC needs to change its policies on long term loans and immunity from seizure.

                The AAMD’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Dr. Rowan Flad (RF) indicates that the PRC has undertaken significant self-help measures to protect its own cultural patrimony.  A database of cultural heritage has been established.  There is active collaboration with American archaeologists. 

                RF’s written testimony may be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Dr. Anne Underhill (AU) states that the PRC has met its obligations under the MOU.  It has protected archaeological sites from looting.  One innovative program has used drones to monitor a site for looting.  Another development is an increase in “indoor excavations,” for which entire depositional matrices are transported to covered labs for careful excavation in safe conditions.  In 2020, 4,200 crimes were investigated, involving 9,700 individuals. Some 93,000 artifacts were recovered.  Access to museums has improved.

                AU’s written comments can be found here:  (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Dr. Rian Thum (RT) indicates that he could not make policy determinations, but he could state facts.  It is an unassailable fact that the PRC has failed to take measures consistent with the UNESCO Convention to protect its cultural patrimony.   It has demolished large parts of the Silk Road city of Kashgar.  It has recently bulldozed two very important Uyghur shrines, and any archaeological artifacts beneath them.  Another target is books.  Initially PRC authorities enforced a “blacklist” of forbidden books.  Now, however, that has been replaced with a “whitelist” which deems any book not explicitly permitted to be forbidden.  This has led to the confiscation and destruction of countless books, some of which are otherwise unknown to scholarship.  It has also prompted some Uyghurs to burn their own books in an effort to avoid being sent to concentration camps.  As was discussed regarding Bulgaria, modern boundaries don’t always correspond with ancient ones.  The same is also true with the status of the Uyghur region in the PRC.  RT observes all of the PRC’s achievements prior speakers associated with archaeological advocacy groups praised relate solely to the study of the PRC’s Han culture. These studies feed the PRC’s narrative.  The PRC seeks to rewrite history to make it appear that Han culture was always the dominant culture in the Uyghur areas.  RT expresses disappointment that his colleagues are unwilling to acknowledge the PRC’s intentional destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage for political purposes.

                No CPAC members asked any additional questions, and AJ concluded the public session approximately 10 minutes early. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

CPAC Should Be Skeptical About New Restrictions on Coins

 This is what I said more or less at yesterday's CPAC hearing.  Due to the time to speak being cut to 4 minutes, I did not get to address the MOU with PRC as much as I would have liked. 

        I’m speaking on behalf of IAPN, which represents the small businesses of numismatic trade.   CPAC should be especially skeptical of US import controls on Bulgarian and Chinese coins.  Both countries have large internal markets in the exact same sorts of coins that are embargoed under US import restrictions. 

          Let me first address the MOU with Bulgaria.   The Cultural Heritage Center’s website now suggests that it does not seek new restrictions on coins, but IAPN nonetheless urges CPAC to oppose any effort to expand the current designated list to include widely circulating Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  CPAC previously rejected such import restrictions during its past deliberations in 2011 and 2018.   Currently, only “Roman Provincial coins” are restricted.  They are completely different than Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  Roman Provincial coins, usually of bronze, were struck by local authorities and were meant to circulate locally.  In contrast, Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins were struck under the authority of Roman Republican or Imperial officials and were designed to circulate throughout the Roman Empire.

          The Cultural Property Implementation Act limits any restrictions to coins “first discovered within, and … subject to the export control by” Bulgaria.  However, Roman Imperial coins found in Bulgaria represent a very small portion of those found internationally. Only 3.2% of hoards containing Roman Imperial coins struck at the late Roman branch mint at Serdica (modern day Sofia) are found within Bulgaria and 96.8% are found outside that country. Moreover, only 6.58% of hoards containing coins from the most prolific Roman Imperial Mint, that at Rome, are found in Bulgaria with the remainder of such coins found elsewhere.  Thus, hoard evidence proves that one simply cannot make the required assumption that such coins were necessarily found in Bulgaria before they can be placed on the designated list. 

          CPAC also should not confuse the Roman Provincial Mint that operated in Serdica during the early Imperial period with the Roman Imperial Mint that operated there in the late 3rd and early 4th century A.D.   Coins of the Roman Provincial Mint at Serdica are restricted already.  Those of the Roman Imperial mint of Serdica are not; nor should they be because again only a small fraction of the entire universe of such coins are found in Bulgaria today.  

          CPAC should also consider the failure of the State Department to hold Bulgaria to its prior promise to facilitate the legal export of coins of the sort that Bulgarians already collect.  Given this failure, CPAC should recommend that U.S. Customs harmonize U.S. import controls with E.U. export controls. The CPIA was passed before the E.U. created a system of export controls for cultural goods.  MOUs with E.U. countries like Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria should be consistent with these E.U. export controls.  This can be done simply by making import restrictions under such MOUs subject to E.U. export controls which have supremacy within the E.U.  This would allow Americans to import coins exported lawfully from Bulgaria’s fellow E.U. members even if they are subject to import restrictions. 

          The current MOU with China should be allowed to lapse.  The PRC should not be rewarded for destroying the cultural heritage of its repressed minorities.   Nor should the US reimpose import restrictions on Chinese coins when its government turns a blind eye to the counterfeiting of US historical coins.   The PRC is also the world’s most sophisticated surveillance state, and simply does not need U.S. help to stop looting.  The PRC government also prides itself on fostering a brisk trade in cultural goods, including coins.  While IAPN commends China for allowing its own citizens to collect common ancient coins, this also means that US import restrictions have the perverse effect of providing Chinese dealers and auction houses with a competitive advantage over their American counterparts.  Indeed, while the US has been enforcing its embargo on Americans importing ancient Chinese coins and other art, Chinese auction houses and dealers have been opening up shop in the US for the express purpose of exporting Chinese art bought here back to China for resale.  Thank you for listening to our concerns.