Advocacy News

October 26, 2010

Preserving Archaeology in Greece: Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) to Consider Establishing A Bilateral Agreement to Protect Greek Archaeological Heritage

Thank you to the hundreds of people who showed their support by submitting letters to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee urging them to create a bilateral agreement with Greece to protect Greek cultural heritage!

On October 12, 2010, the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to consider establishing a new Memorandum of Understanding with Greece (the Hellenic Republic) by which the United States will help preserve the country’s rich archaeological heritage. Eleven AIA members testified about the importance of creating an MoU during the public portion of the hearing.  Read AIA Member Laetitia La Follette’s overview of the meeting.

The publication of Greece’s request was an important opportunity for archaeologists and the general public to show their support as CPAC called for written comments from the  public. The deadline for submitting a letter was September 22, 2010. This page gives you information about CPAC and gives a few suggestions for further reading.

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 an 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 an 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 Greece continues to destroy irreplaceable knowledge about the ancient world. To learn more about the history of the CPIA and the process by which an MoU is agreed to and renewed, you can download this overview.

How can you help?

One of the first stages in reviewing the request for an MoU is assesment by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) and you or your organization can help by writing a letter that shows your support. CPAC will make four determinations in deciding whether to renew. These are:

  1. The cultural patrimony of Greece is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological materials.
  2. Greece has taken steps to protect its cultural patrimony.
  3. U.S. import restrictions are of substantial benefit in deterring the situation of pillage.
  4. Import restrictions promote the interchange of cultural materials between the United States and Greece for scientific, cultural and educational purposes.

This MoU is relevant to you if you have personal or professional experiences that give you an interest in protecting Greece’s archaeological resources. If you are a professor, teacher or student who has used or seen Greek art or objects of daily life in your courses, you have interest in protecting Greece’s cultural heritage. If you’ve done research in Greece, import restrictions protect your ability to study the ancient world and share your work with the public. The American public benefits from seeing well-documented objects on display in museum galleries. If you or your classes have seen pieces loaned from Greece at a local museum, you are a beneficiary of the current MoU and can write in support of its renewal.

More resources

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

State Department Websites

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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.