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I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.

On January 19, 2001, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Italian Republic entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), imposing import restrictions (PDF) on pre-Classical, Classical, and Imperial Roman archaeological materials in stone, metal, ceramic, glass, and painting from Italy. Effective January 19, 2006, the two countries extended the MOU (PDF) for five years.

Effective January 19, 2011, the U.S. and Italy extended the MOU (PDF) for an additional five-year period and amended it to apply U.S. import restrictions to coins of Italian types. The Designated List (PDF) was revised again to reflect this amendment, and published on January 19, 2011.

Effective January 19, 2016, both countries extended the MOU (PDF) for an additional five-year period. The 2011 amended Designated List remains unchanged and in effect.

II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement

The MOU is in response to a request from the Government of the Italian Republic made 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 (PDF). Import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

Reports from the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale indicate that looting continues to be a severe problem, particularly in Sicily, Lazio, Campania, Apulia, and Sardinia. Books such as The Medici Conspiracy by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini (2006), The Lost Chalice by Vernon Silver (2009), and I predatori dell’arte perduta by Fabio Isman (2009) provide some insights into the organizations that loot Italian sites and traffic in illicitly acquired archaeological material from Italy. At the same time, the quantity and nature of Italian archaeological material on the market further show that the archaeological heritage of Italy is being pillaged to meet the demand in the international trade. The MOU continues to offer both countries an opportunity to engage in a partnership to help protect the cultural heritage of Italy, and to enrich American cultural life through research and educational programs, and loans between Italian and American institutions.

III. Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction

The Designated List (PDF), published in the Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on January 23, 2001, describes types of restricted objects from Italy as ranging in date from approximately the 9th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. Categories include stone, metal, and ceramic sculpture; decorated vessels in metal and ceramic; metal jewelry; weapons and armor, and inscribed metal sheets; glass and stone mosaics; and wall painting. An amended Designated List (PDF) was published in the Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on January 19, 2011. Images to illustrate the list will be made available in the near future.

IV. Import Restrictions

Objects from categories described in the Designated List may enter the U.S. if they have an export permit issued by Italy, or verifiable documentation indicating that they left Italy prior to the effective date of the restriction: January 23, 2001. As of January 19, 2011, coins of Italian types constitute a subcategory of archaeological metal objects subject to import restriction.

VI. For More Information

United States: Cultural Heritage Center(culprop@state.gov)

Italy: Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici
Via di San Michele, 22
00153 Rome, Italy
Telephone: (39) 06-67234700
Fax: (39) 06-67234750

Bilateral Agreements

Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.