Wednesday, December 13, 2023

CPAC to Consider New MOU with India and Renewal of MOU with Algeria

 The State Department has announced that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet on January 30-February 1, 2024, to consider a request for the United States to enter into a cultural property MOU with the Republic of India.  According to the Federal Register notice, public comments and requests to speak are due no later than January 22, 2024, for the public session which will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM on January 30, 2024.  CPAC will consider a renewal of the current MOU with the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria at the same time.

The Cultural Heritage Center's website should hopefully provide some clarity of the scope of the Indian request in the near future.  Import restrictions associated with the current MOU with Algeria already encompass a wide variety of ancient and early modern coin types.  They also cover, at least implicitly, the cultural heritage of displaced Jewish and Christian minority populations. 

The Indian request should raise a number of questions given its likely breadth.  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 India 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 India’s notoriously poor stewardship of its own cultural heritage, including not only neglect, but outright destruction of Muslim and Christian minority cultural heritage.   

Finally, does the State Department intend to recognize the rights of India’s sectarian Hindu government to ownership and/or control of the cultural heritage of today’s minority Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities?   While India is a democracy, these groups have nonetheless suffered discrimination and have even faced occasional pogroms.  In particular, Muslim and Christian places of worship have sometimes been attacked by mobs egged on by local politicians. 

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, 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" India? 19 USC Section 2601 (2) (C).

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

The current MOU with Algeria’s authoritarian government raises similar questions.  Again, the designated list is exceptionally broad, and includes at least implicitly the cultural heritage of displaced Jewish and Christian populations. 

The exceptional breadth of the designated list is readily apparent regarding coins.  Indeed, it includes many Greek, Roman Provincial, Numidian, Mauritanian, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman coin types that circulated either regionally or internationally. Under the circumstances, how can the State Department conclude that particular coins were "first discovered within and [are] subject to export control by" Algeria? 19 USC Section 2601 (2) (C).

How to comment?  According to the State Department, the public should be able to comment on by searching for docket DOS-2023-0040 and following the prompts.  

As of today, however, that link is not active.  CPO will update this blog post once it is possible to comment and/or the State Department provides more clarity about the proposed designated list to be associated with any MOU with India.

Addendum (December 16, 2024):  The blue "comment now" button on the website is now active.  You should be able to directly access the ability to comment here. 

Addendum (January 15, 2024):  The State Department has provided some additional information about the categories of material for which import restrictions will be considered.  They are as follows:


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. 


Extending the Algeria agreement would continue import restrictions on certain archaeological material from Algeria, ranging in date from approximately 2.4 million years ago to approximately 1750 AD including material from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Classical, Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman Periods.  The Government of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria has not requested additional categories of material.

More here.