(1) carefully and thoroughly consider the impact of the current import ban on the protection of Chinese art and archaeological material; (2) reject any effort to extend the import ban to material created after the Tang Dynasty; and (3) assure that if the current import ban is extended the Chinese government will assure that it is vastly easier for American museums to arrange short and long-term loans from Chinese museums for purposes of exhibition, cultural exchange, and scholarship.
Over the years during my fieldwork I have observed looting situations. In 2001, during my Palaeolithic archaeology project in Shandong Province I and my team were called to help with a selvage (sic) excavation. A few tombs of Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) had been looted during a stormy night. When we inspected the site the next day, it appeared to us that these burials had already been looted many times before that night.
Ten years later when my team worked in the field in Shanxi province, about 1000 miles away from the location above mentioned, we also encountered looting activities nearby. The tombs that were looted date to 3000 – 2000 years old (the East Zhou period). Local authorities told me that these--if excavated properly--would have been a very important discovery, probably the largest scale ancient noble tombs for that period ever known in this region. Sadly few have survived unlooted. I must say, since I have worked in this region for ten years, that I have seen few significant archaeological objects from this region.... It is clear to me that the objects looted in 2011 could be much more significant given the scale of noble tombs identified from lootings.
If the provisions of CCPIA had been followed scrupulously and faithfully, the present import restrictions on coins from China would not exist. It might seem expedient for CPAC to look only at the status quo and opt for an extension of the existing MOU as is, but that would merely perpetuate the extremely controversial and highly criticized action of five years ago. Is the committee of today really willing to rubberstamp the actions of that era? Those actions by ECA/CHC [U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs/Cultural Heritage Center], that have been labeled “extralegal”, “arbitrary”, “capricious”, “secretive”, “disdainful”, “unbearable”, “immoral”, “lawless”, “subversive” and “absolutely unAmerican” ought to be examined under a strong light before they are routinely perpetuated by CPAC.
As befits a country of the size and geographic diversity of China, the range of archaeological materials and artifacts is vast and ranges from rare jade jewelry to ordinary bronze cookware, from ceramics to textiles to metalwork to sculptures in terracotta and other materials. Many of these works come from tombs, which are by nature scattered in the rural countryside and not easily policed and protected. Their unauthorized removal by looting—which unrestricted imports encourage--is an incomparable loss for both the Chinese and the rest of the world; without systematic and documented excavation, we lose the context of these works and thus the ability to date them, to chart their typological development, and to understand their meaning. We lose potential information regarding trade, social structure (particularly the expression of status and power), attitudes towards death and burial, and daily life, among other topics.
In recent years, Chinese archaeological works have come to be much better-known in the United States through a number of important exhibitions of newly-discovered works
organized by the Chinese authorities.