I. Emergency Import Restriction

On December 5, 2017, the United States imposed import restrictions on an emergency basis on categories of archaeological material from Libya dating from the Paleolithic (ca. 12,000 B.C.) through 1750 A.D., and on categories of Ottoman ethnological material dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D.

II. Cultural Property Agreement with the United States

On February 23, 2018, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Libya entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), to protect certain categories of archaeological and ethnological materials. The MOU will have the effect of extending the duration of the import restrictions imposed on an emergency basis.

III. Summary of the Basis for the Restrictions

The U.S. actions described above followed a request from Government of Libya seeking protection of its cultural heritage 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).

The import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking in cultural objects. Reports from Libya indicate that ancient archaeological sites and Islamic Ottoman Period sites of cultural importance have been and continue to be vulnerable to pillage, causing serious jeopardy to the cultural heritage of the country. Libya has served as a crossroads of multiple civilizations, each of which has left its mark on the country and on world history.  From beautiful rock art created by prehistoric inhabitants to the famed ancient Greek “Pentapolis” cities, including the World Heritage Site of Cyrene, Libya was a principal incubator of art, religion, and civic life in the Phoenician, Greek, and Roman societies of North Africa. These periods were followed by Islamic and Ottoman eras that produced new forms of art as well as renowned scholarly literature in science and ethics. The emergency action and MOU described above are consistent with the recommendation of the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee and the provisions of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (PDF).

IV. Categories of Artifacts Subject to Import Restriction

A detailed description of examples of object types covered may be found in the Designated List, published in the Federal Register by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury.

The categories of archaeological material covered by the import restrictions include material originating in Libya and representing Libya’s cultural heritage that is at least 250 years old, representing the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Punic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman cultures and periods; dating approximately 12,000 B.C. to 1750 A.D.; including categories of sculpture, vessels, jewelry, coins, and other objects made of materials such as stone, metal, ceramic, bone, shell, wood, mosaic and glass. Ethnological material covered by the import restrictions include material derived from sites of Islamic cultural importance, made by a nonindustrial society (Ottoman Libya), and important to the knowledge of the history of Islamic Ottoman society in Libya; dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D.; including categories of statuary, architectural elements, containers, textiles, and other objects made of materials such as stone, metal, ceramic, wood, bone, glass, textiles, leather, and painting.

V. Import Restrictions

Objects from categories covered by the import restrictions may only enter the United States if accompanied by an export permit issued by the Government of Libya, or other satisfactory evidence (defined at section 2606 of the CCPIA), including documentation that the objects left Libya prior to the effective date of the import restrictions imposed initially on an emergency basis: December 5, 2017.

VI. For More Information

United States: Cultural Heritage Center (

Libya: Embassy of Libya
1460 Dahlia Street NW
Washington, DC 20012
Tel: +1 (202) 606-3667