Advocacy News

January 30, 2013

Opportunity to Help Protect Cambodian Cultural Heritage

Angkor Wat, Cambodia (Photo credited to Bjørn Christian Tørrissen)

We would like to thank everyone who submitted letters of support for the renewal of this important agreement!

From February 27 to March 1, 2013, the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to discuss the possible renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, through which the United States would help preserve this country’s rich archaeological heritage. The MoU is a bilateral agreement between the two countries that imposes import restrictions on Cambodian archaeological materials from the Bronze Age through the Khmer Era.

The looting of sites damages archaeological contexts, hampering archaeologists’ study of ancient remains and distorting our reconstruction of the past. Because our understanding of the past is dependent on our ability to recover, study, and interpret ancient sites and artifacts in their original context, the preservation of sites is critical to the creation of archaeological knowledge, as well as to the maintenance of cultural heritage. A commitment to stopping the import of looted cultural material will help to prevent the destruction of the archaeological record.

What is a MoU?

In 1983, Congress passed the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) that enables the United States to enter into agreements, known as Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), with individual countries to further protection of cultural resources. This legislation established the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), which considers requests for the initiation or renewal of a MoU. An important component of each MoU is a commitment by the United States to restrict the import of undocumented archaeological objects. The goal is to reduce looting, which in Cambodia continues to destroy irreplaceable knowledge about the ancient world. To learn more about the history of the CPIA and the process by which a MoU is agreed to and renewed, you can download this overview.

More Resources

The AIA has prepared two documents with more information about CPAC and MoUs:

State Department Websites

Learn more about the Site Preservation Program and other AIA advocacy efforts.

Donate to Site Preservation.

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The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.