I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.
On March 12, 2004, the U.S. and Honduras entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to impose import restrictions on pre-Columbian archaeological material from Honduras. On March 11, 2009, the import restrictions were extended (PDF) for a term of five years, and Article II of the MOU was amended (PDF).
II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement
The agreement is in response to a request from the Government of Honduras made under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. (PDF)
The unique cultural patrimony of Honduras was found to be in jeopardy of pillage as evidenced by systematic looting in such regions as the Lower Ulúa Valley, Copan Valley, Olancho, Comayagua, and Santa Barbara, as well as other sites within the modern boundaries of Honduras. The rich cultural heritage of this country is represented in over tens of thousands of archaeological sites registered to date; all are vulnerable to looting.
The import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and illicit trafficking in cultural objects.
In addition to providing protection through import restrictions, the Agreement also advances the agenda of the Summit of the Americas, where governments in the Western Hemisphere have pledged to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various collaborative means.
III. Categories of Objects Subject to U.S. Import Restriction
The categories of Honduran objects subject to U.S. import restrictions are described in the Designated List (PDF), published by the Department of Homeland Security in the Federal Register on March 16, 2004. Most of these categories are illustrated in the Honduran section of the Image Database.
The types of restricted objects from Honduras date from approximately 2000 B.C. to A.D. 1550. Categories include, but are not limited to, objects of ceramic, metal, stone, shell, and animal bone.
IV. Import Restrictions
Objects described in the Designated List may enter the U.S. only if they have an export permit issued by Honduran authorities, or documentation indicating that they left Honduras prior to the effective date of the restriction: March 16, 2004.
Under the 1973 Pre-Columbian Monumental or Architectural Sculpture or Murals Statute (PDF), monumental or architectural sculpture or murals may be imported into the U.S. only with an export license issued by the country of origin or documentation that they left the country of origin prior to June 1, 1973.
V. For More Information
United States: The Cultural Heritage Center (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Honduras: Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH)
Villa Roy, Barrio Buenos Aires, Tegucigalpa
Telephone: + (504) 222-3470 / 222-1468
Fax: + (504) 222-2552
Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.