Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Egyptian Import Restrictions Notice Published; Conflict of Interest Concerns Raised

The US Government has published an extensive list of artifacts subject to import restrictions pursuant to the MOU with Egypt.  The effective date is 12/5/16.

The designated list restricts the following ancient coin types down to 294 AD:

H. Coins

In copper or bronze, silver, and gold.

1. General—There are a number of references that list Egyptian coin types. Below are some examples. Most Hellenistic and Ptolemaic coin types are listed in R.S. Poole, A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum: Alexandria and the Nomes (London, 1893); J.N. Svoronos, Τα Nομισματα του Κρατουσ των Πτολe μαιων (Münzen der Ptolemäer) (Athens 1904); and R.A. Hazzard, Ptolemaic Coins: An Introduction for Collectors (Toronto, 1985). Examples of catalogues listing the Roman coinage in Egypt are J.G. Milne, Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford, 1933); J.W. Curtis, The Tetradrachms of Roman Egypt (Chicago, 1969); A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and P.P Ripollès, Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69) (London, 1998—revised edition); and A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and I. Carradice, Roman Provincial Coinage II: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69-96) (London, 1999). There are also so-called nwb-nfr coins, which may date to Dynasty 30. See T. Faucher, W. Fischer-Bossert, and S. Dhennin, “Les Monnaies en or aux types hiéroglyphiques nwb nfr,” Bulletin de l'institut français d'archéologie orientale 112 (2012), pp. 147-169.

2. Dynasty 30 —Nwb nfr coins have the hieroglyphs nwb nfr on one side and a horse on the other.

3. Hellenistic and Ptolemaic coins—Struck in gold, silver, and bronze at Alexandria and any other mints that operated within the borders of the modern Egyptian state. Gold coins of and in honor of Alexander the Great, struck at Alexandria and Memphis, depict a helmeted bust of Athena on the obverse and a winged Victory on the reverse. Silver coins of Alexander the Great, struck at Alexandria and Memphis, depict a bust of Herakles wearing the lion skin on the obverse, or “heads” side, and a seated statue of Olympian Zeus on the reverse, or “tails” side. Gold coins of the Ptolemies from Egypt will have jugate portraits on both obverse and reverse, a portrait of the king on the obverse and a cornucopia on the reverse, or a jugate portrait of the king and queen on the obverse and cornucopiae on the reverse. Silver coins of the Ptolemies coins from Egypt tend to depict a portrait of Alexander wearing an elephant skin on the obverse and Athena on the reverse or a portrait Start Printed Page 87808of the reigning king with an eagle on the reverse. Some silver coins have jugate portraits of the king and queen on the obverse. Bronze coins of the Ptolemies commonly depict a head of Zeus (bearded) on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. These iconographical descriptions are non-exclusive and describe only some of the more common examples. There are other types and variants. Approximate date: ca. 332 B.C. through ca. 31 B.C.

4. Roman coins—Struck in silver or bronze at Alexandria and any other mints that operated within the borders of the modern Egyptian state in the territory of the modern state of Egypt until the monetary reforms of Diocletian. The iconography of the coinage in the Roman period varied widely, although a portrait of the reigning emperor is almost always present on the obverse of the coin. Approximate date: ca. 31 B.C. through ca. A.D. 294.

With respect to the wording of the restrictions themselves, Customs has reverted back to restrictions based on place of manufacture rather than find spot. (Recent Syrian import restrictions followed the statutory requirements more closely-- likely because they were receiving special scrutiny in Congress.)

This is significant because such restrictions ignore evidence that demonstrates that Egyptian mint coins are regularly discovered outside of Egypt.  Egypt's so-called "closed monetary system” was meant to keep foreign coins "out" and not Egyptian coins “in.” Hoard evidence confirms Ptolemaic coins from Egyptian mints circulated throughout the Ptolemaic Empire which stretched well beyond the confines of modern-day Egypt.  (And, indeed, some hoards are found outside the Empire's territory.)  They also ignored finds reported under the UK's PAS that show Roman Egyptian Tetradrachms circulated as far away as Roman Britain. 

Finally, it is troubling that Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Educational Affairs, made the decision despite a recusal request made on behalf of numismatic trade and advocacy groups. In CPO's view, Ryan's acceptance of an award from the AIA  raises serious conflict of interest issues, if not a violation of ethics rules concerning the acceptance of gifts and awards.  Of course, the AIA lobbied heavily for a MOU with Egypt, and the AIA's award to Ryan specifically referenced ECA's work in implementing MOU's.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kerry Ignorant of Collateral Damage to Legitimate Trade and Museums

It's evident listening to Secretary Kerry that he has been grossly misinformed about how the State Department and CBP misapply import restrictions under the CPIA.  If restrictions were applied as contemplated, there would not be so much collateral damage to the legitimate trade.  Unfortunately, however, our CBP and State Department take cues not from the plain meaning of the statute, but from the archaeological lobby's desire to "shift the burden of proof" to the collector based on the dubious assumption that undocumented means stolen.

Under the CPIA, the burden is on the government to prove: (1) the item is of a type that appears on the designated list; (2) the item was first discovered within and subject to the export control of the country for which restrictions were granted; and (3) that it was illegally removed from the country for which import restrictions were granted after the date the restrictions were imposed.  19 USC Sections 2601, 2604, 2606, 2610.  Draconian rules that assume guilt after only the first element is proved are for dictatorships like Egypt, not for democracies that respect rule of law like the United States.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Outgoing Obama Administration Gifts Egypt and Archaeological Lobby with a MOU

The outgoing Obama Administration has gifted Egypt's authoritarian government, its cultural bureaucracy and supportive archaeologists with a MOU that will likely ban import of undocumented Egyptian antiquities created before 1517.

In so doing, the Administration has ignored 91% of the public comment to CPAC which raised serious concerns with any MOU.  Moreover, the decision once again raises the question whether there was any "done deal" from the outset.

Implementing regulations are expected soon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

State Department Official Confirms Collector Concerns

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Larry Schwartz has confirmed collector concerns about how the State Department has administered the CPIA in a video prepared on behalf of the Antiquities Coalition, an archaeological advocacy group.  For Schwartz and the State Department, MOUs only stem the flow of "illegal" antiquities; not legal antiquities openly sold abroad that don't meet stringent documentation requirements.  The CPIA's legal requirements are "not hard;" there are no real procedural and substantive constraints before import restrictions may be approved.  The burden of proof is on the importer; artifacts can be seized and forfeited without proof they were first discovered within and subject to the export control of the country for which restrictions are given.  And, of course, State sees itself as a partner with foreign cultural bureaucracies, academic archaeologists that depend on these foreign bureaucracies for excavation permits and their advocacy groups.  But what rule of law and the interests of museums, collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic and antiquities trade?  They apparently don't rate, something that hopefully will be addressed when a new administration takes over in January.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Greek MOU Extended Not Expanded

Import restrictions on Greek cultural goods have been extended but not expanded despite the best efforts of the archaeological lobby to include all coins made or potentially found in Greece.  (Current restrictions encompass many archaic, classical and provincial types, but exclude Ancient Greek "trade" coins like Athenian Tetradrachms.)

Despite this "win," CPO hopes the new Trump Administration will review all current MOUs.  Unfortunately, they have become little more than a special interest program for a small group of connected academic archaeologists and the cultural bureaucracies of countries where they excavate.  

Meanwhile, the interests of ordinary Americans who collect ancient coins and other cultural artifacts and our great museums have been damaged for years by hard to comply with import restrictions.          

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Egyptian Dictatorship Plays the Victim Once Again

As the Sisi dicatorship and  its apologists would have it, Egypt is a victim trying to reclaim its cultural heritage from rich, foreign collectors.  Yet, others suggest the real problems are endemic corruption, a Pharonic approach to cultural heritage management and extreme poverty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting on Renewals of Cypriot and Peruvian MOUs

On October 25, 2016, the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee met to discuss the renewals of the current MOUs with Cyprus and Peru.   The following members were present: (1) Nina Achabal (NA) (Museum Representative); (2) Lothar von Falkenhausen (LVF) (Archaeological Representative); (3) Patty Gerstenblith (PG) (Public Representative-Chair); (4) Jane Levine (JL) (Trade Representative); (5) Thomas Murray (TM) (Trade Representative); (6) Katherine Reid (KR) (Museum Representative); (7) Marta de La Torre (MDLT) (Public Representative); and (8) Nancy Wilkie (NW) (Archaeological Representative).  This will be the last meeting for Patty Gerstenblith and several other CPAC members who have been replaced late in President Obama’s term.

The following speakers appeared to discuss the MOU with Cyprus:  (1) Josh Knerly (JK) (Association of Art Museum Directors) (JK); (2) Carmen Arnold-Biucchi (CAB) (Harvard); (3) Jane DeRose Evans (CDE) (Temple); (4) Peter K. Tompa (PKT)  (International Association of Professional Numismatists/Professional Numismatics Guild); (5) Nathan Elkins (NE) (Baylor); (6) Paul Keen (PK) (University of Massachusetts); (7) Andrew McCarthy (AM) (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute) (CAARI); (8) Bryan Wilkins (BW) (CAARI); and (9) Joan Connelly (JC) (New York University), a former CPAC member representing the interests of the archaeological community.

The following speakers appeared to discuss the Peruvian MOU: (1) Brian Bauer (BB) (University of Illinois); and (2) Josh Knerly (JK) (AAMD)

There were also representatives of the State Department, and the Cypriot and Peruvian governments present in the room to hear the testimony. 

Josh Knerly (JK)- Thanks PG for her service. AAMD supports the renewal with qualifications.  There needs to be benchmarks to address problems in both the Northern Turkish Republic and Republic of Cyprus itself.  JK refers to his paper and asks for questions.  MDLT asks about inventories.  JK says inventories should be done to protect the contents of all structures, including mosques.

Carmen Arnold Biucchi (CAB)-Thinks all statutory criteria met.  Designated list should be extended to Byzantine coins.  Coins struck in Cyprus mainly stayed there.  CAB advocates that Cyprus adopt Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme.  TM applauds her suggestion about the creation of a legal market in Cyprus.  There is no need to hold redundant material in basements.  NW asks about Byzantine coins.  CAB maintains the Byzantine coins struck on the Island did not circulate off the Island in great quantities.   They were not mainly gold coins, which did circulate. NA and PG ask about the archaeological value of coins which CAB confirms. 

Jane DeRose Evans (JDE)-The Antiquities Department promptly investigates looting.  Coins found by metal detectors are easily smuggled.  Agrees with suggestion for restrictions on Byzantine coins.  Says selling coins found on state controlled archaeological sites won’t make much money because their value is minimal.  JDE emphasizes she is not against collecting well provenance coins.  JVF opines that looting of coins causes huge damage to the archaeological record.  ASOR wants to promote responsible collecting. TM notes that partage was a good system that has allowed artifacts to be displayed in museums.  KR indicates times have changed since partage and now long term loans are desirable.

Peter K. Tompa (PKT)-  Unfortunately, the system appears to be rigged.  When the CPIA was being discussed, a top State Department lawyer represented to Congress that import restrictions on coins would be unlikely.  This changed with the Cypriot MOU in 2007.  Two CPAC members have stated under oath that the change was made against CPAC’s recommendations and that the State Department sought to mislead the Congress and the public about it.  More troublingly, it was recently determined that the decision maker made the decision after accepting a job with Goldman Sachs, where she was recruited by and works for a top Goldman Sachs partner who is married to an AIA Trustee and well known heritage lobbyist.  Moreover, things have not changed.  Just recently, the AIA also awarded the current State Department decision maker at a swank gala hosted by this power couple.

Substantively, PKT notes that Cyprus is an Island astride major trade routes so of course coins circulated as proved in a scholarly paper attached to PKT’s submission.  In any event, the governing statute only authorizes restrictions on coins that were first discovered within and are hence subject to the export control of Cyprus.  Thus, the standard is whether such coins are “exclusively” found in Cyprus, not generally found or some lesser standard.  Only coins actually found in Cyprus can be subject to Cypriot export controls.  Paying archaeological workers a fair living wage and better site security in the long off season should be investigated.  Finally, Cyprus should consider instituting a Treasure Act or Portable Antiquities Scheme.

PKT's full oral comments can be found here.  IAPN/PNG's written comments can be found here.

PG and NW maintain that the AIA Trustee was not a Trustee back in 2007.  PKT responds that no one just comes out of nowhere to become a Trustee and there was likely some related work beforehand.  In any case, better transparency on how these decisions are made may help clear up such suspicions.

PG asks PKT about NE’s claim that 80% of Cypriot coins are found on Cyprus.  PKT notes this must be an aggregate figure and that presumably coins from the Ptolemaic and Roman Empires circulated within those Empires.  He notes that Roman Provincial coins from Cyprus are struck on the same standard as the Imperial issues and would have circulated in places like Turkey.

MDLT notes that CPAC’s recommendations are advisory. PKT notes that is true but if State rejects them, State is obliged to justify the change in official government reports which was not done and that the decision maker making her decision after taking a job at Goldman Sachs was troubling. 

NW asks if State Department Lawyer’s statement to Congress was made before metal detectors become prevalent.  PKT indicates they were in use in the 1970’s before the CPIA was passed.
JL asks about collectors maintaining provenance.  PKT says this is easier for expensive items like those at auction at Sotheby’s.  He notes some collectors have thousands of low value coins.

Nathan Elkins (NE) discusses unprovenanced coins on eBay. He maintains the IAPN’s data is selective.  Discusses his own data that led to his conclusion that 80% of Cypriot coins found in Cyprus.  States that a US District Court has rejected PKT’s “first discovered within” argument.  (Note, context is important, that decision was made under a very limited “ultra vires” review of government decision making.)

Paul Keen (PK) discusses coins as archaeological artifacts and their importance in dating sites.  He also maintains Cypriot coins did not travel.  PK talks about a commercial hoard from Jordan he reconstituted that was sold in parcels in London, Paris and Malibu.  The original hoard had 1000 coins.  NW asks whether the hoard would have more value as a whole.  PK says yes, but buyers more likely to purchase piecemeal. 

Andrew McCarthy (AM) is director of CAARI.  Notes US Government support for his organization. Cypriot Government very welcoming host to American archaeologists.  Government addresses looting promptly.  KR asks about accusations of Paphos Mayor that local Antiquities Department personnel had stolen artifacts from storage.  AM says this is a smokescreen because the antiquities authority is holding up local road construction.  He produces documents from excavators and police that purport to exonerate the antiquities service.

Bryan Wilkins (BW) is President of CAARI. Maintains MOUs have helped in a decline in looting.  Notes US State Department support including a $100,000 grant per year for the purpose of funding two scholars.  Notes outreach efforts to local communities to enlighten them about the dangers of looting.  Discussion of shipwreck now in Northern Cyprus.  KR discusses long term loans.  NA notes some of the Cesnola collection now on display in Nicosia.

Joan Connelly (JC) attributes all Cyprus’ problems to Turkish invasion.  Sets forth her close relationship with the Cypriot Antiquities service and her long work on the Island. (Note:  Perhaps IAPN/PNG’s 2007 request that she be recused from voting on the Cyprus MOU request should have been granted after all.) Discusses 15 American digs on Island.  Calls for AAMD to apologize for suggesting the Turkish Republic for Northern Cyprus is a recognized political entity.  Attacks the AAMD’s suggestion that benchmarks be set for the renewal of the next MOU as “neo-colonialist.”  In response to question from NA, attacks PAS and Treasure Act.

JL indicates her belief that JC is misconstruing JK discussion of benchmarks.  JC notes she is an honorary citizen of Paphos, decries reckless attacks of Paphos Mayor on antiquities service.

Brian Brauer (BB) states Peru has met the criteria for renewal.  He notes that greater efforts must be made to ensure that site guards get a living wage.   He requests new restrictions on Colonial documents and fossils.  PG says that CPIA may not allow restrictions on fossils.  She asks for more detail on colonial era documents.  BB says now families who own old documents can sell them on eBay.  They should stay in Peru.  BB defers to AAMD on loans and does not express concern about benchmarks proposed by AAMD. 

Josh Knerly (JK) notes he is gratified that not all proposals for benchmarks are controversial.  He notes that all the issues raised by AAMD 5 years ago, especially regarding long term loans have yet to be addressed.  There is some discussion of on-line inventories so that items may be selected for loans. PG expresses concern that these only be made available to museums so that thieves will not get valuable information.