I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.
On April 12, 1999, the U.S. imposed an emergency import restriction (PDF) on Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material from Cyprus; such material may enter the U.S. only if it is accompanied by an export permit issued by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, or by documentation indicating that it left Cyprus before April 12, 1999. On August 29, 2003, the emergency import restriction was extended through September 4, 2006.
On July 16, 2002, the Government of the U.S. and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to impose import restrictions on categories of Pre-Classical and Classical archaeological objects from Cyprus.
On August 17, 2006, the MOU was amended (PDF) so that the import restrictions would cover both the archaeological material as well as the Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material that was protected by the emergency action.
On July 16, 2007, the amended MOU that imposes U.S. import restrictions on pre-Classical and Classical archaeological objects as well as Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material was extended (PDF) for a term of five years.
On July 10, 2012, the MOU was extended again for a term of five years. At the same time, the historical timeframe of the agreement was extended (PDF) to include the ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material of the Post-Byzantine period, c. 1500 - 1850 A.D.
II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement
The bilateral agreement is in response to a request from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus seeking protection of its cultural heritage 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). Cyprus was the first country in the Mediterranean region to seek the help of the United States in protecting its cultural property.
Materials produced during the Byzantine period illustrate the high degree of artistic achievement on Cyprus and include some of the finest pieces of Byzantine art ever produced. The Post-Byzantine period saw the continued development of this tradition. International recognition of certain Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monuments on the island is demonstrated by their inscription on the World Heritage List. Due to their great value on the U.S. and international market, ecclesiastical material and items of ritual significance – such as icons – are subject to pillage throughout Cyprus.
The rich archaeological heritage of Cyprus illustrates the long history of interaction of its ancient inhabitants with neighboring societies, while maintaining a uniquely Cypriot character. Much of the history of the island from the 8th millennium B.C. to about 330 A.D. can be understood only from archaeological remains, because historical texts are very rare. Pillage of archaeological sites in Cyprus has been destroying sites for centuries, jeopardizing scholarly efforts to reconstruct Cypriot culture. The MOU offers the opportunity for the U.S. and Cyprus to cooperate in reducing the incentive for further pillage, thereby protecting the integrity of intact sites for scientific study.
III. Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction
The categories of objects from Cyprus subject to restriction are described in the updated Designated List, published in the Federal Register on July 13, 2012.
The categories of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine ritual and ecclesiastical ethnological material subject to restriction include objects of metal, wood, ivory and bone, textiles, stone (mosaics), and frescoes (wall paintings). They range in date from approximately the 4th through 1850 A.D.
The categories of the pre-Classical and Classical archaeological objects subject to import restriction include objects of ceramic, stone, and metal, such as vessels, sculpture, coins of Cypriot types, mosaics, inscriptions, architectural elements, and jewelry. They range in date from approximately the 8th millennium B.C. to 330 A.D.
IV. Import Restrictions
Ethnological materials from categories described in the Designated List may enter the U.S. only if they have an export permit issued by the Government of Cyprus, or documentation indicating that they left Cyprus prior to the effective date of the restriction: for the Byzantine material, April 12, 1999; for the Post-Byzantine material, July 16, 2012.
Archaeological objects from categories described in the Designated List may enter the U.S. only if they have an export permit issued by the Government of Cyprus, or documentation that they left Cyprus prior to the effective date of the restriction: July 19, 2002. As of July 16, 2007, coins of Cypriot types constitute a subcategory of archaeological metal objects subject to import restriction.
V. For More Information
United States: Cultural Heritage Center (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cyprus: Director, Department of Antiquities
Ministry of Communications and Works
P.O. Box 22024
Telephone: (357) 22-865801
Fax: (357) 22-303148
Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.