Friday, December 30, 2011

Scholars Give First-Hand Accounts of Archaeological Looting in Peru

Terraces at Choquequirao, Peru
Photo by Harley Calvert.  CC 
As the January 3 deadline approaches for submitting comments to CPAC (the Cultural Property Advisory Committee) regarding Peru's renewal request for import protections, some scholars have supplied firsthand accounts of the threats to cultural property in that country.

Brian Bauer of the University of Illinois remarks to CPAC:
"I am a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and have conducted archaeological research in Peru for more than 30 years. Looting is a huge problem in Peru and every day the archaeological record of its past civilizations becomes smaller as sites are destroyed. Much of the looting is fueled by the demand for artifacts, in both the art and antiquities market. The current restrictions on the importation of artifacts from Peru into the USA plays an important role in curbing the demand for these artifacts and helps to preserve archaeological sites. I urge you to continue as well as further strengthen these [regulations]." 

Dr. Margaret Jackson of the University of New Mexico writes in her public comments to CPAC:
"This message is in support of the proposed extension of the ban on archaeological and cultural properties from Peru. As a scholar specializing in art and cultural materials from the Andean region, I can personally speak about the kinds of damage caused by the illegal traffic in antiquities. I've witnessed it firsthand. When people think of ancient Peruvian culture, they often think of the pristine mountain fastness of sites like Machu Picchu, but unfortunately, the actuality is rather different. To supply a voracious art market, site after site will be chewed up by looters, bones and burials desecrated, architecture obliterated, fragile murals and other remains turned to rubble and cast aside. This happens at sites large and small all over Peru. Placing legal restrictions is the only way to curtail the destruction. I strongly support any measures toward this end."

And Maya Stanfield-Mazzi of the University of Florida describes:
"As a professor of art history at the University of Florida, I request that you renew the MoU with Peru to protect that country's cultural heritage. I have conducted research in Peru for several years and have seen the damaging effects of the theft and destruction of that country's heritage, both Pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial. These losses are damaging to the Peruvian people as a nation and to the Peruvian economy. It is important to the standing of the United States that it not be seen as complicit in the trade of illicit art and artifacts. Please continue to support Peru's efforts to conserve its heritage."

Comments regarding the Peruvian request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States that would renew import protections pursuant to the Cultural Property Implemantaion Act (CPIA) may be submitted by clicking here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alltop Lists Cultural Heritage Lawyer As Best of the Best - Thank You

Alltop, all the top stories

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  Courtesy of your interest in and subscriptions to this blog, an early gift arrived today.  Alltop placed Cultural Heritage Lawyer on its Top Archaeology News site.  This blog is honored to join the ranks of such prestigious publications as Archaeology magazine, ScienceDaily, and Looting Matters on Alltop's list.  Thank you to all my readers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brogan Museum To Close on January 15

Brogan Museum
Source: Ebaye
Just a little over a month after authorities seized the Cristo Portacroce from the Brogan Museum in Florida (see here), directors announced that they will close the doors to the museum indefinitely on January 15 because of financial problems.  Watch the WCTV report here.  It remains to be seen if the museum will reopen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Landau Files Motion to Suppress in Theft of Major Artwork Prosecution

Baltimore Division courthouse.
Source: US District Court of Maryland
Lawyers for Barry Landau have filed a motion to suppress the evidence the government obtained from a search of Landau’s home.  Landau is charged in Maryland federal district court with conspiracy and theft of major artwork. See here for background.

Landau is scheduled for trial in February and is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  His co-defendant, Jason Savedoff, entered a guilty plea earlier this year.  Find more information at this
 link.

Federal agents executed a search warrant on July 12, 2011, reportedly seizing historical documents from Landau’s New York City apartment.  But Landau claims, through his counsel, that the search warrant lacked sufficient probable cause and, therefore, the evidence seized cannot be admitted by the government at trial.

The motion to suppress contends that police observed Savedoff acting suspiciously at the Maryland Historical Society (MHS), and it was Savedoff who was found with historical documents after being arrested.  Despite the fact that Landau was not seen to have acted suspiciously and that Landau did not have possession of any historical documents, police unlawfully placed Landau under arrest and acquired a search warrant based on specious facts, the motion argues.  The motion to suppress explains:

"The affidavit provided to Judge Katz in support the respective applications for search and seizure warrants failed to establish probable cause to permit the searches authorized.  Because there was no evidence recovered from Mr. Landau, and no one observed him stealing any documents or acting inappropriately while at the MHS and prior to his arrest, there was no probable cause to allow a search of his residence and all evidence seized at this apartment pursuant to the search warrant should be suppressed."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Lava Treasure" Prompts INTERPOL Alert to Dealers and Collectors


INTERPOL (the International Criminal Police Organization) has issued an alert to specialist dealers and coin collectors.  The agency seeks to recover gold coins and plates discovered off the coast of Corsica more than 25 years ago.  The 1700 year objects are part of the "Lava Treasure."

Authorities have been attempting to reclaim the Roman-era items after identifying divers who made off with the find from French waters and then sold the haul for millions.  France prosecuted eight people implicated in the case, and the nation recovered coins and a plate from the treasure last year worth up to nearly three million dollars.  Many unrecovered items could still be on the market.  Click here for more background on the case.

Anyone with information about gold coins or plates from the Lava Treasure should contact INTERPOL here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Peruvian Archaeology, The Costs of Cultural Property Repatriation, and Satellite Imagery to Combat Looting

While Peru currently pursues its request for an extension of American cultural property import protections under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (see this post for background), PRI’s The World and the BBC reported on yesterday’s repatriation of artifacts to Peru by Yale University.  You can listen or read the news item by clicking on the links.

Naturally, the ongoing problem of archaeological site looting was mentioned in the reports by Mattia Cabitza.  Two observations bear some attention.

First, it is not often that we hear about the specific monetary costs of repatriation.  Blanca Alva of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture is quoted as saying: "The problem is that repatriations are expensive."  "They involve a court case, and you need to pay lawyers, transportation, packing, insurance, laboratory tests, etc.”  Cabitza informs us that “[i]n 2007, the Peruvian government estimated that it spent $625,000 (£400,000) on the repatriation of some 400 antiquities.  Ms Alba believes repatriating antiquities is, in the long term, a price worth paying, but she would prefer it if more was done to fight looting.”

Second, there was a discussion about using satellite imagery to combat clandestine archaeological looting.  The idea has been mentioned many times before and bears repeating.  Indeed, Cabitza writes that “Nicola Masini of Italy's Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage has been using satellite imagery in Peru since 2007. . . . Mr Masini believes satellites could also be used to combat looting, because they reveal the presence of fresh excavations.”

Satellite monitoring should be used as a tool for detecting site looting around the globe and for collecting evidence in order to both deter clandestine digs and to prosecute illegal antiquities trafficking.  Commercial satellite imagery can be expensive, but the technology has shown early results when used to expose war crimes (see the Satellite Sentinel Project).  Satellites may be used in a similar fashion to combat crimes affecting cultural heritage.  Global Heritage Network (GHN) announced that it started using satellites this year to monitor endangered cultural sites, and Google Earth is being utilized in some places as a cheaper alternative.  But there should be more widespread discussion about investing in the higher resolution images that can be provided by a commercial company like DigitalGlobe, which furnishes GHN's images.

Satellite image of the famous site of Macchu Pichu in Peru.
CONTACT: http://www.culturalheritagelawyer.com/.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cultural Heritage and War: A Video Report on Libya

A recent video produced by NATOchannel.tv reports on cultural heritage in Libya in the context of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  The short, two part film titled NATO and Libya - Cultural Heritage in Times of Unrest can be viewed below.

One important remark is made by Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman of the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group.  He explains that friendly military forces committed to protecting cultural property can deny enemy forces a potential reservoir of military financing.  The comment is another reminder that meaningful investigation to uncover the connection between illegal antiquities trafficking and weapons purchases is sorely needed.

Part I

Part II

CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CPAC Will Meet to Consider MoU Extensions with Cyprus and Peru - Public Comments Period Open

Extensions of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Cyprus and Peru will be taken up by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at their next meeting in Washington, DC.  A public session will be held on January 18, 2012 to consider extending the bilateral agreements the United States has with these nations, which implement US import protections covering jeopardized cultural property.

An MoU is enacted pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).  The treaty is implemented in the US by the federal Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).  Import protections granted under the CPIA last for five years and may be renewed.

To attend the public session, reserve your place by calling  the Cultural Heritage Center of the Department of State at (202) 632–6301 by 5 p.m. EST on January 3.

Byzantine bronze cross from Cyprus
subject to US import protections.
Source: US State Dept.
Public comments may be submitted electronically to CPAC.  Click here to comment on the Cyprus MoU extension, or here to comment on the Peru MoU extension.  Comments are due January 3 by the end of the day.  If you encounter any problems, visit the eRulemaking web site at http://www.regulations.gov/.  Enter docket number DOS-2011-0135 for Cyprus or docket number DOS-2011-0136 for Peru and follow the instructions on the web site.  Be aware that the electronic submissions process sometimes can be cumbersome.  Comments may also be mailed to:

Cultural Heritage Center (ECA/P/C)
SA-5, Fifth Floor
Department of State
Washington, DC 20522-0505

The comments must address one, some, or all of the four determinations outlined by the CPIA.  Quoting 19 USC 2602, the four determinations are:

(A) [whether] the cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party;

(B) [whether] the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;

(C) [whether] --

(i) the application of the import restrictions . . . with respect to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party, if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by those nations (whether or not State Parties [to the 1970 UNESCO Convention]) individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and

(ii) remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in such section are not available; and

(D) [whether] the application of the import restrictions . . . in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

European Union Seeks Comments Relating to Cultural Property Protection

The European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) says in a November 29, 2011 press release that it is seeking comments on "on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory."  The EC consists of a representative group of Commissioners who serve as the executive body of the EU.

The European Commission's public statement adds that it "launched a public consultation on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory. The consultation will provide an insight into the views of public authorities, citizens and other stakeholders on the most effective way to facilitate such return."

Vice President Antonio Tajani
EC Vice President Antonio Tajani is quoted as saying: "Today, the illicit trafficking of cultural property is a major problem, going beyond a significant economic dimension, to affecting the core of our cultural identity. I share the increased concern of citizens and Member States and I am working to improve the situation. Please be a part of this effort and let us have your comments and ideas".

Contact information regarding where to send comments may be found here [Update 1/24/12: this link apparently has been suspended].  The deadline is March 5, 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MoU Extended With Bolivia - US Customs Issues Final Rule

Tamucumira Mask.
One of the Bolivian objects subject to
CPIA import regulations.
Photo courtesy US State Dept.
The US government has extended import protections over archaeological and ethnological objects from Bolivia. The two governments entered into a bilateral agreement  in 2001 pursuant to the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), which gives force to the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property). Import restrictions under the agreement last five years and may be renewed each period.

Bolivia received emergency protection under the CPIA in 1989.  A bilateral agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), was finalized in 2001, and the US government renewed that MoU in 2006.  The latest renewal occurred earlier this year.  The Federal Register reports:

"On August 26, 2011, after reviewing the findings and recommendations of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, United States Department of State, concluding that the cultural heritage of Bolivia continues to be in jeopardy from pillage of certain archaeological and ethnological materials, made the necessary determination to extend the import restrictions for an additional five years. On November 10, 2011, diplomatic notes were exchanged reflecting the extension of those restrictions for an additional five-year period."

On December 1, 2011, US Customs and Border Protection published its final rule describing the specific import regulations.  The rule may be found here.

Thanks go to Gary Nurkin for news of the rule's publication.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

US-Greece MoU Produces Final Cultural Property Import Protection Rule

United States Customs and Border Protection today issued the final administrative rule covering import restrictions covering archaeological and ethnological material from Greece. The rule follows the July 17, 2011 adoption of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the United States and Greece under the Cultural Property Implementation Act in accord with the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The MoU entered into force on November 21, 2011 and can be found here.

Greek mosaic.
Source: Bijan.  CC.
Import protections are now in place on Greek archaeological and ethnological cultural items dating from around 20,000 B.C. through the 15th century A.D. These restrictions last for five years and were instituted in order to "control illegal trafficking of such articles in international commerce" and to protect "endangered cultural property," according to the rule.

Ancient objects subject to seizure at the American border include those made of stone, metal, ceramic, bone, ivory, glass, faience, textile, papyrus, paint, mosaic, wood, glass, and parchment. The import restrictions cover sculptures, sarcophagi, reliefs, furniture, vessels, tools, weapons and armor, coins, beads, pottery, musical instruments, documents, paintings, floor mosaics, and more.

Lawful entries of these specified cultural objects are permitted in certain cases. For example, a valid export permit from Greek authorities would allow an archaeological or ethnological cultural object to enter the US border.

The Federal Register has published the rule at 19 CFR Part 12.  Click here for the full text.