I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.

On October 26, 2000, the United States and Nicaragua entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF) imposing import restrictions on Nicaraguan archaeological materials.

On October 20, 2005, the agreement was amended (PDF) and extended for a period of five years.

The Agreement was extended and amended (PDF) for five years, effective October 20, 2010. It was extended and amended (PDF) again for a period of five years, effective October 20, 2015.

II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement

The agreement is in response to requests from the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua made under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (PDF).

The import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive pillage and illicit trafficking in cultural objects.

With regard to the 2000 MOU, it was found that the looting of sites was widespread, severely limiting the potential for future scientific investigation and understanding of Nicaraguan history. For example, in the early 1990s, looters at a site near the border with Costa Rica took jade pieces heretofore unknown in the country, before archaeologists could scientifically record, recover, and analyze the materials.

With regard to the 2005 extension, it was recognized that ongoing pillage to acquire artifacts to sell locally and abroad is documented in scientific and press reports. The Nicaraguan archaeological sequence is still largely undefined and the continual loss of irreplaceable data through looting will thwart a fuller understanding of this unique area.

In addition to providing protection through import restrictions, the bilateral 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 Import Restriction

The official Designated List (PDF), published by the Department of the Treasury in the Federal Register on October 26, 2000, describes the categories of objects subject to import restriction was.

The List includes, but is not limited to, types of archaeological materials that date from 8000 B.C. to 1550 A.D., such as ceramic polychrome vessels, ceramic seals, beads and spindle whorls; stone statues, vessels, grinding stones, petroglyphs, mace heads, small greenstone objects, jewelry, and chipped stone tools; gold decorative ornaments; and pierced shell beads.

IV. Import Restrictions

Nicaraguan objects subject to import restrictions may enter the U.S. only if they have an export permit issued by Nicaraguan authorities, or documentation indicating that they left Nicaragua prior to the effective date of the restriction: October 26, 2000.

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 it left the country of origin prior to June 1, 1973.

V. For More Information

United States: The Cultural Heritage Center (

Nicaragua: Instituto Nicaragüense de Cultura
Dirección de Patrimonio Cultural
Palacio Nacional de la Cultura
Managua, Nicaragua

Bilateral Agreements

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