U.S. Response:
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U.S. Protection of Archaeological and Ethnological Material

The United States and Peru signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 9, 1997, that restricts the importation of pre-Columbian archaeological material and certain Colonial ethnological material into the United States unless accompanied by an export permit issued by Peru. Notice of the U.S. action and a descriptive list of the types of artifacts subject to import restriction were published in the Federal Register on June 11, 1997, the effective date of the import restriction.  

The MOU continues without interruption the import restriction first applied as an emergency measure on May 7, 1990, on Moche artifacts from the Sipan region of northern Peru. Sipan is the site of royal tombs, the richest intact tombs found in the Western Hemisphere, yielding artifacts of gold, gilded copper and silver, unlike any previously known.  

This U.S. action is in response to a request from the Government of Peru under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This convention establishes an international framework of cooperation to stem pillage and unauthorized transport of cultural objects across boundaries. The United States became a party to the Convention in 1983, following passage of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act and is able to assist another country in combating the destruction of archaeological sites and the unauthorized removal of ethnological material that may be communal property of indigenous groups. Both categories are non-renewable resources and important to the cultural legacy of a nation.  

II. Description of Artifacts Subject to Restriction

In addition to providing ongoing protection to the royal tombs of Sipan (noted above), U.S. protection under this accord is extended to the archaeological remains of the cultural groups that developed in Peru from approximately 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 1532, including the Chavin, Paracas, Moche, Cuzco, Incas and other cultures of this period. Examples of the types of archaeological materials protected include objects made of textiles; gold, copper and silver; wood; ceramic; and stone.  

The protection also extends to certain ethnological material from Peru produced during the Colonial period (A.D. 1532-1821) such as objects directly related to the pre-Columbian past and objects used for religious evangelism among indigenous peoples, such as paintings and sculpture with distinct indigenous iconography.  

A descriptive list was published in the Federal Register notice. The Peru Image Collection provides illustrations of some categories of restricted objects.

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Revised: March 15, 1999

Peru Image Collection

1997 Agreement 

1997 Federal Register Notice (html) (text) 

1990 Federal Register Notice

The Return of a Stolen Cultural Treasure to Peru

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