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

III. Significance of Peruvian Cultural Heritage

The rich accomplishments of ancient Peruvians make the cultures of the Andean region among the most important in the development of human civilizations of antiquity and Mesoamerica.  

Their achievements include the construction of city complexes; advances in metal alloy technologies; and the production of unequaled textiles and jewelry, as well as unique polychrome ceramic vessels and effigies. Over time, the systematic pillage of archaeological sites in Peru and the removal of ethnological material important to the religious and social mores of indigenous populations have caused irreparable loss to history and traditional practices.  

Gold Bell, SipanPHOTOGRAPH: Guilded copper bell, found at Sipan, h. 11 cm. (Courtesy, C. Donnan and D. McClelland, Fowler Museum of Cultural History). An identical bell was seized by police from looters of the tomb.  

The United States, considered to be the world's largest market in art and artifacts, is a significant destination for much material that is illicitly removed from context in the country of origin and exported without authorization. This action by the United States demonstrates respect for the cultural heritage of Peru and offers the opportunity for Peru to further certain initiatives already underway to provide sustainable protection of Sipan and other archaeological complexes throughout the nation. The action also offers the opportunity to stabilize a serious situation of pillage and develop long-term solutions for the protection of this unique cultural heritage. The cultural resources protected under this MOU are non-renewable and important not only to Peruvians but to human development throughout the hemisphere. This protection affords the opportunity to explore alternatives to accessing the material for cultural, educational and scientific purposes.  The recent seizure and return of a gold Moche backflap illustrates one of the possibilities for cooperation between the U.S. and Peru.

This MOU is consistent with the recommendation of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee that found the cultural patrimony of Peru to be in jeopardy from pillage. The U.S.-Peru accord also advances the promotion of cultural values, one of the action items agreed upon at the 1994 Summit of the Americas where participants pledged to work with hemispheric governments to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various means, including the implementation of cultural property protection agreements.  

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Revised: March 12, 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

Frequently Asked Questions

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