I. Emergency Import Restriction

On April 30, 2008, the U.S. imposed an emergency import restriction (PDF) on any archaeological and ethnological materials from Iraq, defined as "cultural property of Iraq and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance." This import restriction continues restrictions that have been in effect continuously since August 6, 1990.

II. Summary of the Basis for this Restriction

The basis for this restriction is the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 (PDF), which authorizes the president to "exercise the authority of the president under section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2603) with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Iraq without regard to whether Iraq is a State Party under that Act," and without the need for a formal request from the government of Iraq.

The legislation specifies that "the term 'archaeological or ethnological material of Iraq' means cultural property of Iraq and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or religious importance illegally removed from the Iraq National Museum, the National Library of Iraq, and other locations in Iraq, since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 661 of 1990."

III. Categories of Artifacts Subject to Import Restriction

A detailed description of examples of object types covered may be found in the Designated List (PDF), published in the Federal Register by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury. The restriction covers all archaeological and ethnological items from Iraq, from the earliest objects produced by humans through the 20th century, including but not limited to objects of ceramic, stone, metal, glass, ivory, bone, shell, stucco, textile, paper, parchment, leather, and wood, as well as painting.

IV. Import Restrictions

Objects covered by the import restriction may enter the U.S. only if they are accompanied by documentation that they left Iraq prior to August 6, 1990.

V. For More Information

The Cultural Heritage Center (

Bilateral Agreements

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