Thursday, October 27, 2011

Public Comments Submitted to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Support of US-Bulgaria MoU Protecting Cultural Property

Should the Committee agree that cultural patrimony located within Bulgaria is in jeopardy from pillage and that the CPIA’s other determinations have been meet, the Committee’s support for the MoU with Bulgaria would permit US authorities to more vigorously curb illegal international artifacts trafficking.

Enactment of the MoU would strengthen America's commitment to protect evidence of the past threatened by archaeological site looting and to protect cultural identity undermined by the theft of ethnological materials. The theft of artifacts from the ground permanently erases the archaeological record. Knowledge of history, culture, or identity is often eliminated when on-site scientific study of historical, pre-historical, or ethnographic evidence is marred by looters, smugglers, and unlawful receivers of trafficked antiquities.

Archaeologists, law enforcement officers, and others possessing first-hand experience with cultural objects originating from Bulgaria are in the best position to describe the situation; their observations should be afforded considerable weight. The Committee should be mindful too of the experiences of our international friends. Canada’s recent interdiction of a large volume of smuggled cultural material from Bulgaria is noteworthy.

Americans’ support for the protection of history, heritage, and cultural identity builds on a legacy exemplified by President Reagan’s adoption of the CPIA. More than three in five Americans believe that artifacts should not be removed from another nation without that country's assent. These were the findings of a 2000 Harris Interactive poll, and there is little reason to believe that sentiments have changed.

President Nixon remarked that the 1970 UNESCO Convention “is a significant effort … to help preserve the cultural resources of mankind.” These words resonate today, urging support for the MoU.

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