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Federal Register Notice: March 10, 1995; 60(47):13352-13361

Pre-Hispanic Artifacts From El Salvador

Customs Service 
19 CFR Part 12 
[T.D. 95-20] 
RIN 1515-AB70 

Pre-Hispanic Artifacts From El Salvador 

AGENCY: U.S. Customs Service, Department of the Treasury. 
ACTION: Final rule. 

SUMMARY: This document amends the Customs Regulations to reflect the imposition of import restrictions on certain pre-Hispanic artifacts from El Salvador. These restrictions are being imposed pursuant to an agreement between the United States and the Republic of El Salvador which has been entered into under the authority of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act in accordance with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The document also contains the Designated List of Archaeological Material representing pre-Hispanic cultures of El Salvador which describes the articles to which the restrictions apply. 

EFFECTIVE DATE: March 10, 1995. 


Legal Aspects: Donnette Rimmer, Intellectual Property Rights Branch (202) 482-6960. Operational Aspects: Louis Alfano, Office of Trade Compliance (202) 927- 0005. 



The value of cultural property, whether archaeological or ethnological in nature, is immeasurable. Such items often constitute the very essence of a society and convey important information concerning a people's origin, history, and traditional setting. The importance and popularity of such items regrettably makes them targets of theft, encourages clandestine looting of archaeological sites, and results in their illegal export and import. 

The U.S. shares in the international concern for the need to protect endangered cultural property. The appearance in the U.S. of stolen or illegally exported artifacts from other countries where there has been pillage has, on occasion, strained our foreign and cultural relations. This situation, combined with the concerns of museum, archaeological, and scholarly communities, was recognized by the President and Congress. It became apparent that it was in the national interest for the U.S. to join with other countries to control illegal trafficking of such articles in international commerce. 

The U.S. joined international efforts and actively participated in deliberations resulting in the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (823 U.N.T.S. 231 (1972)). U.S. acceptance of the 1970 UNESCO Convention was codified into U.S. law as the "Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act" (Pub. L. 97-446, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.). The spirit of the Convention was enacted into law to promote U.S. leadership in achieving greater international cooperation towards preserving cultural treasures that are of importance not only to the nations whence they originate, but also to greater international understanding of mankind's common heritage. The U.S. is, to date, the only major art importing country to implement the 1970 Convention. 

During the past several years, import restrictions have been imposed on a emergency basis on archaeological and cultural artifacts of a number of signatory nations as a result of requests for protection received from those nations. 

Now, for the first time, import restrictions are being imposed as the result of a bilateral agreement entered into between the United States and a signatory nation. This agreement has been entered into in March 1995, pursuant to the provisions of 19 U.S.C. 2602. Accordingly, the Customs Regulations are being amended to reflect the imposition of the restrictions. Section 12.104g(a) is being amended to indicate that restrictions have been imposed pursuant to the agreement between the United States and the Republic of El Salvador. 

This document contains the Designated List of Archaeological Material representing pre-Hispanic cultures of El Salvador which are covered by the agreement. Importation of articles on this list is restricted unless the articles are accompanied by an appropriate export certification issued by the Government of the Republic of El Salvador. 

Because this agreement includes categories of objects from the Cara Sucia Archaeological Region of El Salvador which have been subject to emergency import restrictions, and because those restrictions are about to expire, Customs is also amending paragraph (b) of this section by removing the entry for El Salvador. 

Designated List of Archaeological Material Representing Pre-Hispanic Cultures of El Salvador 

Pursuant to an agreement between the United States and the Republic of El Salvador, the following contains descriptions of the cultural materials for which the United States imposes import restrictions under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (P.L. 97-446), the legislation enabling implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Designated List below subsumes those categories of objects from the Cara Sucia Archaeological Region of El Salvador for which emergency import restrictions have been in place since 1987. With publication of the Designated List below, protection of the Cara Sucia material continues without interruption. 

What follows immediately is a list of terms for time periods and their subdivisions. Please note that some terms are overlapping and are used to distinguish pivotal intervals in regional prehistory (these terms are: Protoclassic, Terminal Classic, and Protohistoric). Different references may vary slightly as to the beginning and end dates for the periods listed here. 

Preclassic Period: 1700 B.C.-200 A.D. 

    Early Preclassic: 1600 B.C.-800 B.C. 
    Middle Preclassic: 800 B.C.-400 B.C. 
    Late Preclassic: 400 B.C.-200 A.D. 
Classic Period: 200-900 A.D. 
    Protoclassic: 200 B.C.-200 A.D. 
    Early Classic: 200-600 A.D. 
    Late Classic: 600-900 A.D. 
    Terminal Classic: 800-900 A.D. 
Postclassic Period: 900-1520 A.D. 
    Early Postclassic: 900-1200 A.D. 
    Late Postclassic: 1200-1520 A.D. 
    Protohistoric: circa 1400-1550 A.D. 
The following Designated List is representational and may be amended as appropriate. 

1. Figurines 

1a. Preclassic Figurines. 

    Most are solid ceramic figurines representing women with broad torsos and thighs, and small or virtually flat breasts. These are portrayed in a sitting or standing position. The eyes and mouth were typically represented by jabbing small holes into the still wet clay (punctation), many times with two or three holes used to depict each eye. Although the bodies are crafted without much detail, elaborate coiffures are commonly shown. 
      Dating: Most Preclassic figurines date to the Late Preclassic (corresponding to the Chul and Caynac Ceramic Complexes of western El Salvador, and the Uapala Phase of eastern El Salvador). 
      Appearance: Often cream to white, but may also be red or brown (ranging from dark brown to tan). Usually of very fine textured clay. 
      Size: Most range between 4" (10 cm) to 8" (20 cm) in height. Examples smaller than about 4" may be perforated for use as pendants. Rare figurines 16" (40 cm) or more in height have been reported. 
      Important Variants: Some of the larger figurines are hollow rather than solid. Very rare examples have movable arms, with sockets set into the shoulders and separate arm pieces that were actuated by means of strings. Some figurines depict women cradling infants. Whistle mechanisms are very rarely present. Painted designs in black or other colors are very rare on these figurines. 
      Formal Names: Bolinas figurines (Boggs 1973a); Kulil, Xiquin, and Tat Complex figurines (Dahlins 1978); Quelepa Figurine Types 1 and 2 (Andrews 1976). 
1b. Lepa Figurines 
    Most are solid ceramic figurines representing standing humans, while others are animal effigies that function as whistles, whistle flutes, or wheeled figurines incorporating whistle flutes. 
      Human figurines: These figurines have a generally flattened appearance and heads are usually crowned by a broad and narrow headband (or hairdo) resembling a long bar. Eyes are shown by a single punctuation (to represent the pupil) between two ridges defining the eye itself. Feet are usually split in a "Y" shape to help support the figurine. The figurines may be adorned with necklaces shown by a series of clay pellets. Rarely is enough detail included to determine which sex is intended (in such cases women are usually represented). 
      Pelleted Tubular Whistle Flutes: Tubes with a whistle mechanism (blow-hole) at one end and a rolling pellet within, that produces a continuously varying tone when blown and tilted up and down. Simple bird or monkey heads may be added to the instrument's body. 
      Wheeled Figurines: Human or animal effigies with four tabular legs, each with a perforation to accept wooden sticks as axles for the front and rear wheels (the wheels themselves were ceramic discs rarely found together with these artifacts). Decoration is mostly through applique using relatively thick strips and pellets of clay. 
      Animal Effigy Whistle flutes: Made from a small sphere of clay with very simple (schematic) applique to represent humans, birds, turtles, armadillos, opossums, and other animals. In addition to the whistle mechanism, these have one or two finger holes in their bodies that vary their tone when covered. The most elaborate examples may have punctate and ridge eyes like those found in the Lepa human figurines. May be perforated for suspension. 
      Dating: Late Classic Lepa Phase of central and eastern El Salvador, represented in Quelepa, Tehuacan, and other sites. 
      Appearance: Usually reddish brown to brick red, with a rough or only moderately smoothed surface. Some have a polished white slip that, when well preserved, may have elaborate designs painted in black, red, and/or yellow. Pelleted tubular whistle flutes have been noted with fugitive (post-firing) white and/or blue paint. 
      Size: Most human figurines range in height between 5" (12 cm) to 10" (25 cm). Unusually large examples are known to reach 15" (38 cm) in height, and these tend to bear painted designs more often than the normal sized figurines. The pelleted tubular whistle flutes known are 7" (18 cm) or slightly shorter in length. The wheeled figurines known range from about 3.5" (9 cm) to 5" (13 cm) in length. The animal effigy whistle flutes measure about 2-3" (5-8 cm) in maximum length. 
      Important Variants: Larger figurines may be hollow rather than solid, and may either contain pellets to act as a rattle, or may be equipped with holes for use as a flute ("ocarina"). 
      Formal Names: The human figurines have been classed as Lower Lempa Culture figurines (Haberland 1961) and as Quelepa Figurine Type 3 (Andrews 1976). The wheeled figurines have been termed Oriental Type (Boggs 1973b). The animal effigy whistle flutes have been referred to as Lepa Phase whistles (Andrews 1976; see also Boggs 1974). 
1c. Cotzumalhuapa Figurines and Molds 
    Ceramic figurines, usually hollow and typically mold made in part (especially heads). About half the known examples represent women and most of the remainder depict a variety of animals (men are rare). Some representations of plants and furniture (litters) are known. Whistle mechanisms were optional for all forms of Cotzumalhuapa figurines. Pelleted tubular whistle flutes and recently identified Cotzumalhuapa wheeled figurines are also included here. 
      Molds: The molds used to produce these figurines were press molds made of coarse textured fired clay, usually brick red or reddish brown in color. The working faces of these molds present a complicated depressed area that produces the impression, while the opposite side of the mold is usually rounded and carelessly finished. A sheet of wet clay was pressed into the mold and then carefully extracted with the impression of, for examples, the front half of a female figurine (the other half was added by hand modeling, as were optional details like headgear should these be absent from the mold used). 
      Female Figurines: The figurines representing women have been referred to as "bell-form" due to the shape of their conical hollow bases. They usually portray elaborately dressed women, adorned with necklaces, earplugs, and large headgear of variable shape (but often resembling a half moon). The uniformity in portrayal suggests that we are dealing with a personage, and it is not too speculative to suggest that she was an important Cotzumalhuapa goddess. Rare figurines exist where the female's body is covered by cacao pods, indicating a relationship to agricultural production and, in these latter example, with the intensive production of cacao that has been documented as an important Cotzumalhuapa economic focus. Whistle mechanisms, when present, are usually worked into one shoulder (the larger female figurines tend not to possess whistle mechanisms). 
      Male Figurines: The very rare male figurines are known to include representations of warriors (with clubs and shields) and injured or diseased individuals (one example shows an individual with patches of flesh missing from the maxillary area and nose). 
      Animal Figurines: Among the animals present in Cotzumalhuapa figurines are: parrots, vultures, owls, doves, monkeys, felines (probably jaguars are intended), bats, dogs, deer, frogs or toads, turtles, iguanas, snakes, crocodiles, fish, clams, crabs, and others. These reflect the rich fauna of the Cotzumalhuapa area, which included mangrove lined estuaries, the adjoining coastal plains, and nearby mountain ranges. Monkeys and parrots are, however, the most common animals depicted. Most animal figurines have whistle mechanisms. Because of the complicated forms required for animals, use of molds may sometimes be limited to face areas, and some are entirely hand modeled. 
      Plant Figurines: Representations of corn cobs and cacao pods have been found. 
      Pelleted Tubular Whistle Flutes: Tubes with a whistle mechanism (blow-hole) at one end and a rolling pellet within, that produces a continuously varying tone when blown and tilted up and down. One example is apparently a bat effigy, with a bat head and disk (representing the wings?) added to the tubular body of the instrument. 
      Wheeled Figurines: Cotzumalhuapa wheeled figurines have recently been identified. One has a tubular body with four tabular supports, each with a perforation to accept the wooden sticks that acted as axles for the front and rear wheels. A mold-made dog head was added to one end of the tube, and a tail to the other. 
      Other Figurines: Two figurines have been documented representing the litters that were probably used to transport Cotzumalhuapa elites. They resemble a small rectangular box with a canopy, supported by four spiked feet. A pair of holes at each extreme permitted two sticks to be inserted to act as the carrying poles. On one example the canopy was modeled to represent the stretched skin of a crocodile arranged with the head at one extreme and the tail at the other, with a spiked crest running between the two. Other Cotzumalhuapa modeled clay artifacts that may be included as figurines include objects resembling scepters, bells, lidded boxes, and plaques with human faces. 
      Dating: Late Classic products of the Cotzumalhuapa culture which in El Salvador included the western coastal plain to the upper drainage of the Paz River; trade brought examples into Payu Ceramic Complex contexts elsewhere in western and central El Salvador. 
      Appearance: Most are brown (from tan through reddish brown) to red (brownish red to brick red), with a coarsely finished to moderately smoothed surface. Rare examples are of Tiquisate Ware (characterized by a very smooth, lustrous, and hard surface, cream to orange in color), and may be ancient imports from the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Traces of paint may be present (blue, black, red, yellow, and white have been documented); the paint was usually applied after firing and tends to be easily eroded. Those parts of figurines made without the benefit of molds tend to be rather carelessly modeled. 
      Size: Female figurines usually range in height from 4" (10cm) to 12" (30cm), but some rare specimens reach 24" (60cm) and perhaps more in height. Animal and plant figurines tend to be small, typically ranging from 3" (8cm) to 6" (16cm) in their maximum dimension, though larger examples occur. The pelleted tubular whistle flute mentioned measures 6" in length (16cm). A measurement for a wheeled figurine is 5.5" (14cm) in length. The models of litters are approximately 9" (23cm) in length. 
      Important Variants: Cotzumalhuapa use of clay was very creative and the observer should expect figurine forms not mentioned here. 
1d. Payu Figurine Flutes and Whistles 
    Most Payu ceramic figurines known are musical instruments that have been classified as whistles, whistle flutes, and flutes (commonly called "ocarinas"). Although their decoration varies considerably, important hallmarks (when present) are the decorative use of parallel strips of clay (sometimes with longitudinal grooves), and applique of clay pellets with a distinctive dimple in their center. Molds were sometimes employed to render the faces of humans and monkeys. Human faces may include details commonly associated with Classic Maya conventions, including cheek decorations (from tatoos or scarification), extension of the bridge of the nose to above eye level, and/or a steeply inclined forehead (representing cranial deformation). 
      Globular Flutes ("ocarinas"): Payu figurine globular flutes have a very distinctive construction. Three spheres of clay were joined together in a column or in an "L" shape (and pierced at the junctures). The uppermost sphere was equipped with a blow-hole. Clay was then packed around this assembly and decorative elements added. All the "L" shaped flutes known were decorated to represent a standing quadruped animal whose open mouth forms the blow-hole. The other (straight) flutes were almost always modeled to represent a human (either full-body or just the head portion). 
      Tubular Whistle Flutes: Basically a tubular form with a whistle mechanism (blow-hole) in one end and three to five finger holes along the body of the tube. The appliqued head and arms or a monkey or human are always present next to the blow-hole. 
      Whistle Flutes: A small, spherical body with a whistle mechanism and one or two finger holes is hidden to a lesser or greater degree under effigy decoration. This decoration tends to be notably more carefully executed and detailed than Lepa or Cotzumalhuapa examples. Examples include effigies of: humans (full-body or heads), monkeys, dogs, birds, and reptiles. Smaller whistle flutes may be perforated for suspension. 
      Dating: An artifact class belonging to the assemblage associated with the Payu Ceramic Complex (Late Classic Period). 
      Appearance: Most Payu figurines are of medium textured clay with a moderately smoothed surface (and almost always unslipped). Color is usually reddish brown but may range from tan to brick red. Traces of paint are rare and may include blue-green, white, yellow, red, or black. Painted decoration, when present, was usually added after firing and tends to easily wear away. 
      Size: Globular flutes=3-8" (8-21 cm); tubular whistle flutes=6-8" (15-21 cm); whistle flutes=2-8" (5-20 cm). 
      Formal Names: None. Many examples are illustrated in Boggs 1974 (noted as Late Classic, from western and part of central El Salvador). 
1e. Guazapa Figurines 
    Early Postclassic ceramic figurines whose style is derived from central Mexico and form part of the Guazapa Phase of central and western El Salvador. The Guazapa Phase has been interpreted as marking the large-scale migration of Nahua speakers into this area, these being the ancestors of the historical Pipil. 
      Mazapan-Related Figurines: Very flat figurines whose rendition of the human figure has been compared to gingerbread cookies. These objects were made by pressing a sheet of clay into a mold, obtaining a thin (0.75-1" or 2-3 cm) solid figurine. The rear portion of the figurine is left unfinished and may exhibit finger marks from when the clay was pressed into its mold. The front displays a woman with a blouse with a triangular front, coming to a point in the middle of the waist. This type of blouse was referred to as a quechquemitl in central Mexico at the time of the Conquest, when its use was restricted to images of goddesses and goddess impersonators. These figurines are so-named for their close similarity to figurines of the Mazapan (Toltec) Phase of central Mexico. 
      Toad Effigies: Hand modeled large hollow toad effigies. They are usually shown as sitting as erect as possible for a toad, looking upwards. The front and rear of the toad's body is decorated with strips and buttons of clay meant to represent festive ribbons and bows. The tongue may be shown hanging from the mouth. In Postclassic Nahua mythology, toads were considered as Tlaloc's (the rain god) helpers, and it was they who announced the coming of the rains (the extended tongues are probably meant to represent their thirsty anticipation of rain). Due to this association, some examples are known of toad effigies that include two rings around the eyes (a diagnostic trait of Tlaloc himself). 
      Tlaloc Bottles: Bottles with a more or less spherical body crowned by a straight tubular neck with a flat, flaring rim. The body is decorated with the face of the rain god Tlaloc whose most distinctive trait is a ring around each eye. Many Tlaloc Bottles are in fact plugged in the neck or body and could not have actually functioned as vessels. Tlaloc was considered to dwell in the mountain peaks and pour out the rains from a bottle; these artifacts were probably household votive images of that bottle. 
      Very Large Effigy Figurines or Statues: Hand modeled hollow figurines representing jaguars and gods or god impersonators. The larger examples reach life size and may truly be considered as ceramic statuary (in any case, they have been included under "Figurines" to facilitate discussion). Known examples of gods or god impersonators represent the gods Tlaloc (identifiable by the rings around his eyes), Mictlantecutli (represented as a skeletal personage) and Xipe Totec (portrayed as wearing a flayed human skin). The largest figures may be crafted in several mating parts (for example, a Xipe Totec effigy was made in two large halves joining at the waist, with a separate head). Seventeen jaguar effigies were found in one excavation at Cihuatan; all of these portray a jaguar sitting on its haunches decorated with necklaces and a few bulbous objects placed on different parts of the body. 
      Small Solid Figurines: Hand modeled figurines of humans that are usually solid or mostly so, and that occasionally employed molds to form the face. Most appear to represent males who may carry war equipment (such as a dart thrower or atlatl) and large headgear. These figurines tend to be relatively small and crudely modeled. 
      Wheeled Figurines: Small wheeled figurine, consisting in a tubular hollow body with four tabular supports, each with a hole to accept wooden sticks acting as axles for the front and rear wheels. The wheels are flat ceramic disks. A tail was added to one end of the tubular body and a head to the other. Examples are known with deer heads with antlers, and dog heads with tongue extended over the lower lip. 
      Dating: Artifacts of the Early Postclassic Guazapa Phase of central and western El Salvador (at Cihuatan, Igualtepeque, El Cajete, Ulata, Santa Maria, Pueblo Viejo Las Marias, and other sites). 
      Appearance: Generally reddish brown to brick red, but may be as light as tan in color. The surface may be smoothed but not polished and has a sandy texture. Many give the impression of having been hastily made. Traces of white, black, blue, yellow, and/or red fugitive paint have been found on some figurines. 
      Size: Height of Mazapan-related figurines=6-10" (15-25 cm); height of toad effigies=6-9" (15-23 cm); height of Tlaloc bottles=4-10" (10-25 cm); height of very large effigy figurines or statues=24-55" (61-140 cm); height of small solid figurines=6-18" (15-30 cm); length of wheeled figurines=5.5-8.5" (14-22 cm). 
      Formal Names: Encompassed by the Guazapa Phase, the type site of which is Cihuatan (see Boggs 1944, 1963, 1973b, 1976; Bruhns 1980; Fowler 1981, 1990). 
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