April 28, 2016
From May 24th to 26th, 2016, the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet to discuss the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Greece (the Hellenic Republic), by which the United States would help preserve this country’s rich archaeological heritage.
This is an important opportunity for archaeologists and the general public to show their support for the renewal as CPAC has called for written comments from the public. The deadline for submitting a letter is May 9, 2016. Full details on submitting letters can be found at https://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DOS-2016-0009-0001.
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.