Advocacy News

March 9, 2012

Report on CPAC Public Hearing January 18, 2012

by Christina Luke and Jane Evans

The current Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the US and Cyprus, is up for renewal in 2012; each MoU comes-up for renewal every five years. AIA members testified before the Cultural Property Advisory Committee of the State Department in support of renewal. This year, over a dozen experts – former diplomats, scholars, field archaeologists, art historians – testified in the public hearing before the Committee on January 18 (many more submitted letters to the public file at AIA Vice President for Professional Responsibilities Laetitia La Follette spoke on behalf of the AIA; Brian I. Daniels represented the Cultural Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania; and Stephen Knerly spoke on behalf of the Association of Art Museum Directors. Others spoke as well (see complete list of those that spoke and their affiliation). The Committee asks that speakers (as well as those submitting written comments) address the four ‘determinations,’ the specific components of the Cultural Property Implementation Act that will be considered as part of any initial request or a renewal for a current MoU: looting, preservation, the market, and international significance of the request.

Testimonies by Ellen Herscher, Tom Klein, and Andrew McCarthy, Director of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI), spoke to the first and second determinations: plunder and preservation efforts in-country. Their reports were based on American archaeologists’ long-term experience conducting successful, professional excavations on the island. Herscher and McCarthy pointed out that plunder is an issue that must be tackled holistically because it is not confined to just one area of the island and it is a problem in urban as well as remote areas. Tom Klein argued that the Cypriots have a history of arrests and recovery of looted objects, which continues today. Herscher reminded the Committee that there is continued need for improved site protection, especially given the up-tick in market demand, and for a new national museum.

Joanna Smith and Ann-Marie Knoblauch both spoke about the fourth determination: international interest and significance. Of specific interest are opportunities for cross-cultural education for Cypriot and American students in the many on-going excavations on the island. Smith also pointed to a series of exhibitions that have taken place recently, or soon will (“City of Gold: The Archaeology of Polis Chrysochous, forthcoming at the Princeton University Art Museum”). Former Ambassador Ray Ewing, President of CAARI, also made comments relating to the fourth determination: efforts made by Cypriots in educating people about the harmful impacts of looting: destruction of the archaeological record and loss of potential for tourism development. International collaboration is one way to bring in training as well as to foster cross-cultural exchange. In this spirit, the speakers and statements submitted also emphasized the importance of not only  people-to-people programming in Cyprus, but also the value of institution-to-institution collaboration focused on loans for exhibits.

One of the requests that the Cypriot government had made was to ask for the inclusion of ecclesiastical and ethnological objects up to 1850 in the designated list of objects to be protected via import restrictions into the US.  Chris Schabel supported this extension. Stephen Knerly (Association of Art Museum Directors), too, supported the renewal of the MoU as a whole, yet he asked for more definition of the objects that would fall into this specific category.

There was a great deal of web activity prior to the hearing about the inclusion of coins in the MoU.  Three numismatists posted public comments and testified on behalf of retaining coins on the list, and suggested extending the time period to at least Byzantine coins minted on Cyprus.  Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, representing the Harvard Art Museums, noted that she was not arguing against collecting coins, but that the looting on the island was now such a problem that extraordinary steps must be taken to combat the loss of knowledge that comes when coins are taken out of context.  Nathan Elkins provided evidence that 80 percent of the coins known to have been minted in Cyprus, have been discovered on the island, suggesting that the vast majority of coins remained in local circulation.   Jane Evans tried to point out specific instances where coins—found in situ—have made a great deal of difference to our understanding of ancient Cyprus, which is sadly lacking mention by many ancient historians.

Three people attended the session opposed the renewal of the MOU with Cyprus due to the inclusion of coins on the list of objects with import restrictions. Their arguments were threefold: that the agreement abrogated their constitutional right to happiness (through collecting); that coins were meant to circulate widely in the ancient world, and so should continue to circulate today; and that the restriction of coins and the documentation required for legally imported coins would have deleterious effects upon small business. These views were met with penetrating questions by committee members

The AIA urges other members of the archaeological community to participate in such hearings of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC, State Dept.) about MoUs—even if you do not write a letter, it is important to have experts show interest in U.S. cultural policy as it pertains to not only U.S. foreign relations, but also the practice and conduct of U.S.-foreign cultural exchanges that are part of the network of scholarship, of specific interest in countries with U.S. Foreign Centers, such as CAARI.

According to the State Department’s website, oral comment was heard from the following people:

Public Comments on Cyprus

Arnold-Biucchi, Carmen – Curator, Harvard Art Museum

Daniels, Brian I. – University of Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Center

Elkins, Nathan – Public

Evans, Jane DeRose – Temple University

Ewing, Raymond – President, Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI)

Herscher, Ellen – Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)

Klein, Tom – Public

Knerly, Stephen J. – Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD)

Knoblauch, Anne Marie – Public

LaFollette, Laetitia – Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)

McCarthy, Andrew – Director, Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI)

Sayles, Wayne – Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG)

Schabel, Chris – Chair, Department of History, University of Cyprus

Smith, Joanna – Public

Tompa, Peter – International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN), Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG)

Ullman, Eloise – Industry Council for Tangible Assets

Public Comments on Peru

Daniels, Brian I. – University of Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Center

Gero, Joan – Society for American Archaeology (SAA)

Heaney, Christopher – University of Texas, Austin

LaFollette, Laetitia – Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)

Townsend, Richard – The Art Institute of Chicago

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