Opportunity to Support the Protection of Chinese Cultural Heritage
April 1, 2013

Opportunity to Support the Protection of Chinese Cultural Heritage

From May 14 to May 17, 2013, the State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to discuss the possible renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of the People’s Republic of China by which the United States would continue to help preserve this country’s rich archaeological heritage through import restrictions on cultural materials and artifacts from China.

The looting of sites damages archaeological contexts, hampering archaeologists' study of ancient remains and distorting our reconstruction of the past. Because our understanding of the past is dependent on our ability to recover, study, and interpret ancient sites and artifacts in their original context, the preservation of sites is critical to the creation of archaeological knowledge, as well as to the maintenance of cultural heritage. A commitment to stopping the import of looted cultural material will help to prevent the destruction of the archaeological record.

Public comments are an important statement of support for the MoUs. We would like to thank everyone who submitted letters of support for this MoU.

What is a MoU?

In 1983, Congress passed the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) that enables the United States to enter into agreements, known as Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), with individual countries to further protection of cultural resources. This legislation established the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), which considers requests for the initiation or renewal of a MoU. An important component of each MoU is a commitment by the United States to restrict the import of undocumented archaeological objects. The goal is to reduce looting, which in China continues to destroy irreplaceable knowledge about the ancient world. To learn more about the history of the CPIA and the process by which a MoU is agreed to and renewed, you can download this overview.

More Resources

The AIA has prepared two documents with more information about CPAC and MoUs:

State Department Websites

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