United States Department of State
International Cultural Property Protection
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Protecting Cultural Property Worldwide     U.S. Response-Overview

The U.S. Response
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U.S. and International Laws


Background: Legislative background and history of U.S. protection of cultural property worldwide

Cultural Property Advisory Committee


Review Process

Frequently Asked Questions

Glossary and Definitions



Under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (the "Act"), any of the eighty-nine signatories to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, may submit a request to the U.S. seeking import controls on certain categories of archaeological or ethnological materials. Such a request is submitted to the United States Department of State which has the delegated authority to carry out the president's decision-making functions, specifically to make a determination about whether a request merits the imposition of U.S. import restrictions. Before the State Department reaches a decision, it considers the recommendation of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. This committee, appointed by the president, is comprised of eleven private citizens who are expert in archaeology and anthropology; expert in the international sale of cultural property; and who represent the interests of museums and the general public. The State Department provides technical and administrative support to the committee.

Implementation of Agreements

To date, the U.S. has entered into cultural property agreements or taken emergency action to protect Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material from Cyprus; archaeological and ethnological material representing the Aboriginal cultures of Canada; archaeological and ethnological material representing the pre-Columbian and colonial cultures of Peru; archaeological material representing the pre-Columbian cultures of El Salvador; Mayan archaeological material originating in the Peten Lowlands of Guatemala and material representing the cultures of the Highlands and Southern Coast regions; and archaeological material from the region of the Niger River Valley of Mali. The restriction on Aymara Indian textiles from Coroma, Bolivia has expired.

Exceptions to Import Restrictions

All restricted objects may enter the U.S. if accompanied by an export permit issued by the country of origin, or if appropriate documentation demonstrates that they left the country of origin prior to the date the import restriction went into effect. Restricted materials also may enter the U.S. for temporary exhibition if they have been granted immunity from seizure under the current regulations.

The examples of implementation noted above further the goal of the Act by helping countries stabilize a situation of pillage so that improved law enforcement techniques can be developed and elements necessary for sustainable protection may be identified and put into place. Such elements may include scientific research, exhibition exchange, conservation training, museum development, educational programs, economic development through cultural tourism and other activities that will serve to ameliorate the problem of pillage for the long term.


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Revised: October 1, 1999

On October 1, 1999, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will become part of the
U.S. Department of State. Bureau webpages are being updated accordingly. Thank you for your patience.