Looting Matters: Protecting the Cultural Heritage of Italy
SWANSEA, Wales, April 16 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on next month’s hearing to consider an extension to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the US State Department and Italy.
In January 19, 2001 a “Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Italy Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological Material Representing the Pre-Classical, Classical and Imperial Roman Periods of Italy” was signed. One of the aims was to reduce the trade in antiquities that had been removed from their archaeological contexts by illicit means.
A hearing of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) has invited further submissions for its meeting in early May 2010. The committee has to decide whether or not to renew the MOU.
The past decade has seen well over 100 antiquities returned from high profile North American museums. Among the pieces are the Sarpedon krater from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a marble statue of Sabina (wife of the Roman emperor Hadrian) from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and an acrolithic statue of Aphrodite from the J. Paul Getty Museum. As recently as 2009 three antiquities were seized from a New York auction-house and returned to Italy; in addition, a fragment of a Roman wall-painting from Boscoreale was spotted at an unspecified New York gallery.
Italy has made major strides forward in reducing the amount of looting sustained by its archaeological sites. It appears that the MOU with the United States has reduced the demand for recently-surfaced antiquities. Museums, private collectors and dealers have been less willing to acquire or handle objects whose documented collecting histories cannot be traced back to the period prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
Sebastian Heath, Vice President for Professional Responsibilities at the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), says: “The MOU between the US and Italy serves the interests of the international community by reducing looting and preserving information about the Ancient World. Works of Greek and Roman art, both large and small, are of most value to scholars and museum goers when we know where they came from so that we can better understand their role in the cultures that produced and used them. Extending the MOU will demonstrate the joint commitment of the United States and Italy to expanding knowledge of our shared heritage.”
SOURCE Looting Matters