Monday, December 23, 2013

Season's Greetings!

Season's Greetings to all of you in the cultural heritage blogosphere who visited my home in cyberspace this past year, or may do so in 2014. This is just to confirm that I'm still alive, so be prepared for more news and updates on my travels and adventures. As a preview, I can report that I will attend the IPPA (Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association) conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia in January. I am honored to be able to host a small panel on the illicit trade in Southeast Asia, which should bring together speakers who can offer both archaeological and legal/criminological insight as applied to that region of the world.

From there, I am Hanoi bound for two weeks in order to conduct "pilot" research for what I hope will be a long term project to better understand the antiquities trade within and from Vietnam using quantitative and qualitative data (see initial announcement here in the Oct. 1st post). Planning continues apace, but as always with research in this part of the world, some aspects will be played by ear. However, good outcomes are anticipated by myself and all involved.

As a final happy announcement, I am overjoyed to report that I will officially be a post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution from April next year. Yes, this does mean that I am DC bound. I will maintain three affiliations, be engaged in what should be a very exciting bioarchaeology research project, and also be well positioned (I feel) to keep things going in regards to antiquities trade research (and the application of archaeological science to it) and public outreach. So, whilst updates here might be intermittent (more so!) from February through April, once I've arrived I will do my best to tap into the Smithsonian's wider outreach and training programs as a way to share what I do with an even wider audience and do new things to boot. Stay tuned!

As we close out 2013 (where did it go?!), may I take this chance to wish one and all Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Homework Sucks!

As many of you out there can recall from your school days, not doing your homework, even just once or twice, would almost surely make you fall behind. Some might cheat to try to catch up, some might beg "the smart kid" for answers (but I'll be your best friend!), and some might accept their fate and be more diligent.

This metaphor perfectly sums up the moral of a story that has recently come to my attention. A figurative cry for help has reached me, in the form of a comment left on my VERY first blog entry for SAFE, way back in April, 2010. Who would've imagined anyone still read that far back?! Let's see what's going on.

As you can see if you click on the link above, on October 24th, someone simply going by the name Mo has commented. In it, he informs myself (and all of SAFE) that he'd recently bought five rings from BC Galleries (referred to as a Local Antique shop...does this mean he's in Melbourne)? He wants my personal help in ID'ing/authenticating, as he's "not good at Hellenic culture." I am?!

The story continues with the assertion that he's a "university accounting student also interested in Antique," but that he went ahead and spent $2,700 US (allegedly) on these rings...without getting anything independently verified first! If this is true, I'd also assume that he only found out about SAFE and my blog post after the fact. One would hope! He goes on to beg my help as, apparently, he could find no appropriate specialists in Australia (not even at the undisclosed "Local Museum"). No experts, he says? Perhaps it's merely that he's worried the experts won't help...because since when is it their responsibility? They have enough on their plates! I have thus become his "last hope."

So, seems like Mo wants me to "do his homework" for him, perhaps after the fact. Either he's clueless and got had, so now reaches out to whomever he can in the hope that someone can assuage his buyer's remorse with a vindication that he's purchased real items...and to hell with considerations such as import/export legality or whether he's holding "toxic antiquities."

On the other hand, would a Uni accounting student (!) with apparently some cash to blow (lucky him!) buy no-questions-asked online? Wouldn't you want to talk to the dealer in person first? Would any but the most gullible ever buy, say, a car from a used-car salesman (not known for their honesty, alas) without performing "due diligence" first?

If anything resembling a licit global market entirely separate and not fed by the illicit market is ever going to exist, if that's even possible, then everyone involved on the demand side has the utmost responsibility to perform due diligence not just afterwards when caught or investigated (or uneasy about one's purchases). When one tries to click on the links to each individual catalog item as offered in his original comment, "not found" messages appear.

Given the numerous evidence-based arguments put forth already that strongly suggest licit can't be separated from illicit in this case (see here and here), I have my doubts. If such a development can ever occur in any meaningful sense, it will be a celebration worthy public policy outcome of new research in this field welcomed by many I'm sure.

As this unexpected example shows, and as we in this scholarly/investigative field continually stress, everyone who voluntarily chooses to further this risky business via "ethical" participation at any level MUST "do their own homework" by asking all the right questions, not just the most pressing afterthoughts.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Your Feedback is Important to Us!

As those of you who follow this blog would know, Vietnam and its ancient past are near and dear to my heart. The need to better conserve its archaeological record and understand what threatens it remains important...but the degree to which it is threatened is less known than other countries in the region. Research begun by myself and a colleague with legal and criminological expertise in art crime will begin to remedy this.

As part of our overall goal, we have drafted a series of questions designed to produce qualitative data via elucidating Western and Vietnamese archaeologists' experiences and observations of looting and the antiquities trade on the ground. We have already posted a call for interview subjects on three key Southeast Asian archaeology forums. I announce it here as well so as to keep spreading the word. If you or your colleagues would like to contribute, let us know and we can send you the questionnaire and more information about the project and its goals. There's plenty of time, and a diversity of perspectives would be very informative! Anonymity will be preserved.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

If You Happen to Find Yourself in Chicago...

On November 14th, please make an effort to attend this one-day symposium, to be offered by the DePaul University College of Law Centre for Art, Museum and Cultural Heritage Law. The symposium "will address the underlying legal, ethical and moral reasons and policies behind the return of cultural objects. Panels will discuss provenance research, museum acquisitions, the 1970 UNESCO Convention and historical appropriations, and the ethical issues that come into play when requests for repatriation are made." It is rare to see so many influential scholars on this topic in the same room at the same time, so this is truly an opportunity not to be missed (if you're not on an entirely different continent, as I am).

Topics will include "market and legal" perspectives on the need for more thorough provenance (ownership history) research, how museums can negotiate the acquisition of artifacts that lack a pre-1970 provenance (and should they?), legal and moral aspects of international calls for repatriation of artefacts lifted during the Colonial-era, and the oft-contentious issue of when museums and private dealers or collectors should and shouldn't heed calls for repatriation. All in all, it seems like quite the fascinating that I wish I could attend! If any readers of this blog do attend, and would like to guest-blog about what they learned, they are more than welcome.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A "Wrecked" Opportunity?

Yet another historic shipwreck has been discovered and heavily plundered off the coast of Vietnam (Quang Ngai Province), the third since 1998. Thanh Nien News reports that towards the end of June, about 30 boats full of "treasure hunters" rushed over to plunder the shallow wreck; unfortunately discovered no more than 100 meters from the coast and 1.5m deep (more news here).

The seabed around the clusters of likely c. 16th-17th century blue-on-white ceramics discovered has also been dredged and disturbed in the hunt for more artifacts, thereby revealing some of the wreck itself, but also destroying vital archaeological context regarding site formation and taphonomy. There is even testimony to the effect that axes and crowbars were used to free individual artifacts from the wreck as quickly as possible, smashing other pieces in the process!

Fortunately, police have allegedly been on patrol since last Friday morning and a southern Vietnamese "salvage" company was contracted out to conduct an excavation of what remained (see photo above left). The trajectory of discovery, looting, patrol, and "salvage" that occurred for this wreck is very similar to that which occurred for another c. 13th-14th century wreck in the area.

The merits of approaching a salvage company (headed by a known antiquities collector...), as opposed to an organization devoted to maritime archaeology such as the Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project Centre (full disclosure: colleagues of mine), is open to debate. I'd assume it's just a question of time and money, as always.

Here's hoping that authorities will have better luck recovering looted items this time around, but how many are destined for international markets as opposed to local collections is anyone's guess. Vietnamese heritage law would theoretically prevent their export (search for Vietnam here), but enforcement and detection is another matter. With the likely upcoming expansion of Dung Quat port, time is running out to decide what to do with these wreck; remove it or preserve it in-situ as a tourist attraction? Given that other wrecks from different time periods remain unexcavated (but already looted?), how authorities deal with this situation will set important precedent. Stay tuned...  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Truly no quick fix...

This excellent article by Tom Mashberg of the New York Times deserves further dissemination, so I am happy to help spread it through the cultural heritage "blogosphere." It quite clearly emphasises the varying rates of success in repatriation claims by non-Western countries to Western (demand nation) museums, depending on the degree to which a claimant nation's government is willing to 'cooperate' with museum compromises or requests for replacement exhibits/loans. These considerations beyond mere cut-and-dry "evidence" are too-often overlooked.

Most importantly to me is the call, yet again, for "universal standards" that can guide ALL Western museums greatly hampers efforts to organize and carry out repatriations in best accordance with all available evidence. As it stands, this lack of standards provides, in my opinion, another loophole that irresponsible or lazy individuals can exploit to avoid thorough due diligence/provenance checking, even when, as suggested in the article, research can only reveal that at one point an object passed through the hands of a dealer with "a history" of illicit dealings, requiring a judgement call to be made in the end.

Fortunately, the article highlights examples of museums (such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) that are being increasingly proactive in balancing evidence and moral/ethical concerns and cooperating with investigations before things get out of hand. Victoria Reed, the museum's curator for provenance, is quoted as saying "As we strive for greater diligence today, these past acquisition mistakes provide our greatest learning tool." This really demonstrates to me that some cultural institutions that acquire and display antiquities truly get it by now. It's about time that everyone gets on the same page... Concerned citizens and professional scholars alike who watch the dramas unfold are willing to give those behind the curve time to draft and publicize new acquisition's policies, but if you fail to enforce them, be prepared to accept the PR consequences.

In other news, you can now follow me and this blog on Twitter: @DamienHuffer

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Saga Continues...

New revelations have surfaced, reported in The Australian (related, older news here), that the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra does indeed possess one of the most high profile artifacts of those known to have been purchased from extradited antiquities dealer Subash Kapoor; a "dancing Shiva" statue worth approximately US $2 million on the open market (photo at left). It is suggested that this item was in fact stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu state in 2008 and immediately snapped up by Kapoor before being bought apparently no questions asked by the gallery.

The other 20 items purchased from Kapoor that remain in the NGA's collections are alleged to have had sufficient due diligence and ownership history documentation provided demonstrating their exportation pre-1970...and yet an "investigative committee" has been established, the items remain unidentified to the public, and the gallery's director stated in a Senate hearing that they "were cooperating with authorities" and "needed to be as careful as possible." This stance is commendable and understandable, especially given direct evidence for previous high-profile oversights. All eyes are now upon them to see how this compliance plays out and what further investigation turns up.

UPDATE: According to my esteemed colleagues over at Chasing Aphrodite, the NGA seems likely to soon have alot more explaining to do...

UPDATE #2: New reporting in The Australian has revealed that $5.1 million was paid for this statue by the NGA, not $2 million, making this one of the most expensive art or antiquities deal done in Australia. A victim of fraud? Hmmmm...

UPDATE #3: The latest article in The Australian details how continuing revelations of high profile Australian museums and art galleries active and knowing participation in the South Asian antiquities trade via Kapoor have finally caused the Chair of the Australian Association of Art Museum Directors (one Mr. Tony Ellwood) to "place this issue on our next agenda." Let us hope this is carried out and that new accession guidelines for antiquities will be drawn up on par with those in the US and, importantly, made public and actually enforced!

I am quoted in the article and I stand behind my statements, but in retrospect, credit must always be given to investigators of the Tamil Nadu police department's Idol Wing for first alerting the world of some of these thefts. As well, I would more appropriately refer to Kapoor as the "Medici of South Asia" or just "Asia." All in all, these are minor points. All of us now eagerly await more revelations. I will continue to help uncover this "iceberg" as much as possible.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Museums and the Market: When Cultural Institutions Must Sell

An interesting and thought provoking piece has come to my attention recently. It specifically posits the question of what, and to what extent, an established but deeply indebted museum (using Chicago's Field Museum as an example) can sell off previously held collections on the open market. Using the example of the sale of several paintings by Catlin in order to raise proceeds to pay curatorial staff who originally tended the collections, the question of how respectable museums can adapt to times of budgetary stress in an ethical manner comes to mind.

Some have argued for the legal release and sale of artifacts or pieces of artifacts (such as ceramic sherds) in which numerous allegedly identical examples might be found in any one excavation. I would respond by saying that just because two or more objects LOOK the same stylistically does not mean future scientific analysis won't reveal different manufacturing centres, raw material types, or adhering residues that could explain differences in archaeological context. Within the academy, the fields of archaeology and physical anthropology are becoming increasingly focused on methodological advances in "archaeological science" (archaeometry) to breathe new life into old collections or previously curated remains...revealing increasingly minute details of human life history or artifact manufacture, exchange, and use.

Carrying out new excavations successfully (for research purposes) is not only tied to the availability of funds (and thus national, state and local fluctuations in the economy), but also requires a certain degree of luck to find in-tact and well preserved sites before the global antiquities trade claims them. The role of museums and secondary collections in the continuation of global archaeological and anthropological research is therefore not to be underestimated. Selling off already curated items (even with paperwork attached) should therefore be avoided at all costs as, even if this trade would arguably be more "licit," it would still be detrimental to overall scholarly efforts to truly understand and share the past, not just aesthetically "appreciate" it.

Another issue raised is the concept of "donor security" being shaken if it became known that high-profile institutions are being forced to sell or auction off collections. Apparently, if donors get jittery that items they have consigned to museums for long-term safe keeping will now be sold off, and possibly not even returned to them, they will be less likely to donate in the first place. Even in Western countries, where storage space, proper curatorial technique, and security tends to be less of an issue, good intentions will never entirely buffer against ill economic winds.

If the items in questions (e.g. antiquities or fossils) have known or suspected illicit origins, it would seem likely that the economic hardship affecting many of the world's museums would only increase the likelihood of unscrupulous dealers or collectors continuing to do wrong by humanity's past by choosing the "free market" of the no-questions-asked antiquities trade as the final destination for items they no longer want the burden of holding on to. What can be done about this, in relation to the antiquities and fossil trade especially?

It's a tough question, but one that needs practical solutions, barring the sudden generation of revenue from thin air. Will previously free museums have to begin charging entrance fees or levy taxes on acquisitions from private donors? Making "gifts" and "bequests" no longer able to receive tax write-offs could be a start (and would, in my opinion, perhaps make donors more prone to double checking ownership history and documentation). I don't pretend to have a solution readily at hand, but I would love to discuss this topic further. How do YOU think cash-strapped museums can raise revenue without sacrificing too many employees, their ability to provide documented collections for new research, or indirectly fueling the antiquities trade?    

Monday, April 29, 2013

10 Years After...

This month marks the ten year anniversary of the tragic looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad during the initial days of the US occupation. Numerous pieces remain missing from this event, and the museum remains closed to the general public. Only the work of the late Donny George and his staff, with the assistance of the US military, prevented the complete loss of the museum's entire collections and archives. Work to restore this institution is, understandably, very slow going.

To commemorate this event and why it still matters in terms of the global looting crisis and continued discussion of the role of museums and concerned private citizens in preventing the trade, SAFE is running a virtual candle lighting campaign so that the world community can honour what was lost and look towards the future. Candle lighting and other, written or multi-media contributions will be accepted until July, and hosted on the website.

You, too, can light a candle here, as well as watch a relevant video here and read my own reflections here (as part of SAFEs additional campaign to collect personal reflections from heritage professionals and concerned citizens alike). Please help me spread the word, and join the cause yourself! What future, without our past?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Start Spreading the Word

Colleague Rick St. Hilaire has kindly announced on his blog that the campaign to renew the MoU between China and the US is soon to relaunch. Continued instances of grave robbery and archaeological site destruction such as that which tore this 130 year old Qing dynasty mummy from its archaeological context, continue at a frightening pace. CPAC will apparently meet on the 14th of May to begin soliciting public comment and simultaneously announce when the public comment period will end. Therefore I, and I hope as many of you readers as possible, can be sure to submit comments or full letters on the website by then, as was recently done for Cambodia.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hide and Go Seek?

A few days ago, a guest-blogger on the Chasing Aphrodite blog (one M. Frechette), added what I deem a well-thought out contribution to the debate surrounding the upcoming Paris sale of the Barbier-Mueller collection of Latin American antiquities, slated for 22nd March. Further in-depth discussion (with more likely forthcoming) has also been offered by Donna Yates here and here.

One of the commentators, a Dr. Geoffrey A. Smith, stated in rebuttal words to the effect of "published provenance is not always an accurate one," and "just because provenance isn't listed in the catalog doesn't preclude legitimate ownership." Potentially valid, but also contentious, claims. I can attest from my own ongoing research that issues like this are what makes investigating and quantifying the antiquities trade, especially data from past auctions gleaned from catalogs, a time-consuming and complicated task. Relevant but difficult.

My response to Dr. Smith raised what I feel to be a salient point. In the highest-end echelons of the so-called legitimate antiquities trade that auction houses like Sotheby's, Christie's, Bonham's, etc. supposedly now represent, and after several embarrassing exposures of legal and ethical wrong-doing in recent years (discussed ad nausea elsewhere), the question remains: Why hide information from your customers if, in providing it (especially in online forums), you absolve yourself from any claims of fraud or illegal (internationally illegal in many cases) activities? Remaining purely profit-driven is one thing (as Dr. Smith suggests in a follow-up comment), but how can any claims to transparency and reform be taken seriously, and why should they?

As a case in point (and in-line with my general interests in all things Asian antiquities related), I present to you this item.  Allegedly bought at a garage sale in 2007 for $3 (but from an anonymous family), its arrival and sale on March 20th at Sotheby's New York caused shock waves. Listed as a "Rare and Important 'Ding' Bowl, Northern Song Dynasty," first of all let's note that its estimated price was $200,000-$300,000, but it sold for a whopping $2,225,000! Provenance (a.k.a. "ownership history") is offered as solely belonging to a "New York State private collection." When did the original owners (pre-2007) actually acquire it, and how?

In the catalog notes and descriptions, much text is spent describing the aesthetic details of the piece, including a couple citations that provide other examples of similar bowls. One in particular stands out, and I quote the catalog description itself:

"Only one other bowl of the same form, size and almost identical decoration is known; the piece in the British Museum London, published in The World’s Great Collections. Oriental Ceramics, vol. 5, Tokyo, 1981, pl. 57. This bowl was bequeathed to the museum in 1947 by Henry J. Oppenheim, together with a small number of other ‘Ding’ pieces, including a plain dish with foliate rim, pl. 62, and a bowl with molded decoration of boys and flowers, pl. 61."

Relatively detailed information is also provided, with a couple of references, about the general provenience of the Ding ceramic kiln site, with manufacturing dates and stylistic changes observed from the 10th-13th centuries (see Kerr 1982; Kerr and Thomas, 2004). Much is also made of the fact that Ding ware has been argued to be a high-status vessel type, stored in official warehouses and made in imitation of gold or silver objects. NO mention, citation, or even slight hint is revealed as to where and when this particular vessel surfaced, how long it has been outside China, inside the US, and if there are significant gaps in its ownership history. Did the bowl derive from the kiln site itself, a grave, a warehouse stockpile? If originally part of the haul from a legal excavation, even before the days of scientific, systematic archaeology, some relevant notes must exist somewhere for such a rare piece?

And what of the c. 1947 nearly identical piece mentioned above? One might also reasonably inquire as to whether or not, as Dr. Smith suggested, the 1947 provenance could be trusted should it ever arrive at auction. Bought by Giuseppe Eskenazi, current owner of a long established London gallery, might it now be purchased by one of numerous museums who have previously bought from him before, including several in Australia? It is highly unlikely, to me, that any professional museum with a 21st century acquisitions policy would touch this piece unless more clarity and documentation could be provided.

If a museum does purchase it, let us hope that, even for such a tiny and easy-to-overlook piece, everyone will do their job to ensure legal export pre-1970 (and in accordance with Chinese laws that date to 1982 and earlier). Furthermore, may they also have success in clarifying as detailed an ownership history as possible, and perhaps (with luck) obtaining information regarding provenience and context. As pointed out by SAFE and others, China's illicit antiquities trade continues, but national and international action is being taken. It's worth noting here that the latest US-China MoU (2009) will be up for renewal again next year. In closing, I feel that not only are these questions worth raising, but also that the questions themselves demonstrate that the claims to full transparency and reform by such elite auction houses are yet to be satisfactorily achieved. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Live Blogging from Bhutan

For the last week, I have been attending the 1st annual "International Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia" conference, in Thimphu, Bhutan. Pre-conference tours have been incredible, with scenic Himalayan mountain views, visits to Dzongs (monasteries) as old as the 8th and 16th centuries (such as the Taktsang, or "Tiger's Nest," at left) and weekend markets, nightlife, cultural institutions, and interesting and spicy food were all enjoyed. We even "auspiciously" caused a lovely snow fall yesterday and today through our very presence, according to many! The people, both the governmental, military and Ministerial authorities who have made this conference possible, and the "civilian" Bhutanese themselves, have been most accommodating to our varied international diets, levels of cold-tolerance, the occasional technical difficulties, etc. All in all, a wonderful time.

Conference delegates derive from numerous countries across Europe, North America, Australia, and several Asian nations; all united to share the latest developments in issues of policing, monitoring, documenting art and antiquities crime, and preserving heritage. Representatives of INTERPOL, UNESCO, most of Bhutan's governmental ministries concerned with heritage preservation, several museums, textile conservators, and numerous archaeologists and criminologists from several Universities.

Topics have touched on all aspects of local and international law and treaties, loopholes needing to be closed, how to better facilitate networking, active cases (some as current as last month), museum security, unique aspects of the Asian trade, etc., etc. I have left humbled, yet again, by the complexity of this problem, but also its urgency and the commitment, against often steep odds and dire statistics, to do something about it wherever possible.

Stay tuned for more detailed summaries here and elsewhere!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Interesting Developments out of Vietnam

Exciting and relevant news out of Vietnam recently concerning a new "circular" that will take effect on the 15th February, specifically banning nine new categories of ancient artifacts and documents from leaving the country...except for purposes of "exhibition, research, or preservation in foreign countries." It specifically includes prehistoric "fossilized" human, animal, and plant species, "prehistoric items of various materials of both historical and cultural value," relevant important documents pre and post-1945, and "ancient deposits" and items derived from Vietnam's ethnic minorities dating to pre-1975.

The wording of the missive as reported suggests that most categories of archaeological artifact will be included, ideally including human remains as well. The question still remains as to what changes this new law will effect regarding the vigilance and authority of Vietnamese Customs to seize and search shipments bound for export, as well as (the BIG question), what kind of previsions will be made to ensure that import/export requests made under the new "exhibition, research or preservation" criteria, especially from overseas parties, really are for these purposes? Relevant quarantine forms from specific University departments would be one valid example, but how will the issue of forgery and mislabeling on export permit/customs documents be dealt with?

Fundamentally, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should be commended, and I foresee that such new legal measures will help to keep the international market in Vietnam-derived antiquities in check, while ongoing research continues to define and quantify the market itself.  Many thanks to my colleague and friend Noel Hidalgo-Tan for initially picking up the story!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Note to CPAC

In regards to the Cambodian MoU renewal meetings set for February 27th, I have posted the following comment, and advance of a more formal letter. I encourage my readers and blogosphere colleagues to do the same. The website is here. Comments are due by the 6th February. You may also contribute your time and volunteer power to SAFE's "Say YES to Cambodia" campaign, the cause page of which is here. It's all about getting the word out and letting the government know exactly WHY archaeologists, heritage professionals, scholars and followers of the antiquities trade, and concerned citizens alike all seek to renew the MoU for another five years. If you have more to add, a different perspective to share, or feel you can do better, I encourage you to do so. For even more inspiration, see here. It will take as much concerted group effort as possible to make sure this renewal goes through.

"To the CPAC committee"

I am a professional archaeologist and physical anthropologist with field experience in Southeast Asia (primarily Vietnam, for which no MoU yet exists), and an ongoing project at the University of Sydney's Institute of Criminology, attempting to better quantify the illicit antiquities trade from South and Southeast Asia to Western destinations. It has long been recognized that active MoU's remain the most effective legal means that the US government possesses to bilaterally enforce heritage laws, prosecute offenders, and lend weight to Customs efforts in both source and demand countries.
The last five years have seen the continued implementation of the Cambodian MoU and its elimination now would render the world's largest antiquities market fully open for business once again, as well as ensure that affecting measurable decline in looting in Cambodia itself would become much more difficult. For the sake of the people and irreplaceable historic and prehistoric heritage of Cambodia, the integrity of the archaeological record, and the future ability to use archaeological science to continue to understand the past, I urge CPAC to renew the US-Cambodia MoU."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Renewed Cambodia-US MoU Pending?

A meeting to decide on whether or not to renew the MoU between the governments of the US and Cambodia, as well as to add Honduras to the list, will be held February 27th-March 1st at the Dept. of State in Washington, DC. Official talks will be closed to the public, but an open session will be held on the 27th, and anyone in the area is free to attend. Also allowed is the submission of written opinions and information for the committee to consider; the sooner the better.

The Cambodia-US MoU was first signed into law in 2003 and extended for another five years in 2008. MoUs remain one of the most powerful legal tools at the disposal of authorities in both countries involved to enforce Customs seizures and import/export restrictions of prohibited and highly sought after categories of artifact on the black market, and aid in prosecutions. I urge everyone concerned about preserving Cambodia's cultural heritage to make their voice heard. I certainly will be!