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MEDIA NOTE
January 19, 2001

U.S. Protects Italy's Archaeological Materials from the Pre-classical,
Classical and Imperial Roman Periods

The Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Italy signed today a Memorandum of Understanding to protect pre-classical, classical and imperial Roman archaeological material. Ambassador Ferdinando Salleo signed for Italy and Helena K. Finn, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, signed for the United States at a State Department ceremony.

"Italy's rich archaeological heritage was a central influence in the development of Western art and culture from the Renaissance to modern day," said Dr. Finn. "The bilateral accord represents one way of expressing our respect for the gravity of the problem of archaeological looting, which, despite Italy's role as a modern nation state, continues to cause destruction and loss at many national monuments. These are sites of cultural significance not just to Italy but also to the entire world. Italy is one of the world's cultural treasures, and it behooves us all to safeguard it."

At the ceremony Ambassador Salleo expressed Italy's gratitude for this action as a symbol of international partnership to protect the cultural heritage of Italy, which is important to the entire world. He said that this Memorandum of Understanding builds on the long generosity and openness of Italy in loaning art and antiquities to U.S. institutions and would in no way preclude the world's enjoyment of Italian cultural patrimony, but would allow new means and venues of cooperation to benefit the public.

This U.S. action is in response to a request from the Government of Italy 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. Italy is the first major European country to seek cooperation with the United States under the 1970 UNESCO Convention to reduce pillage of archaeological sites. Reports from the Carabinieri Nucleo Tutela del Patrimonio Artistico and in the Italian national and regional press indicate that looting is a current and severe problem, particularly in southern Italy, Sicily, and Etruria. The quantity and nature of Italian archaeological material on the market further indicates that the archaeological heritage of Italy is threatened by pillage to meet the demands of U.S. and international trade in artifacts. The Agreement offers the opportunity to engage in a partnership to help protect the cultural heritage of Italy and to enrich American cultural life through research, educational programs and loans between Italian and American institutions.

Restricted Italian artifacts, including categories of stone, metal, ceramic and glass artifacts, and wall paintings, will range in date from approximately the 9th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. A complete list will be published in the Federal Register next week.

For additional information, contact Catherine Stearns, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, at (202) 619-5053 or e-mail: cstearns@pd.state.gov.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through international educational and training programs. The bureau does so by promoting personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the United States and abroad, as well as by presenting U.S. history, society, art and culture in all of its diversity to overseas audiences. Further information is available at http://exchanges.state.gov.

The United States Department of State is responsible for implementing the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (the Act). This is the enabling legislation for the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. In accordance with the Act, United States Department of State accepts requests from countries for import restrictions on archaeological or ethnological artifacts, the pillage of which places their national cultural heritage in jeopardy. The Cultural Property Advisory Committee, appointed by the president of the United States, reviews these requests and makes recommendations to the United States Department of State. Under the president's authority, the State Department makes a decision with regard to the request and may enter into a cultural property agreement with the requesting country. The cultural property staff supports these functions and related activities and serves as a center of expertise on global cultural heritage protection issues. Further information is available at http://exchanges.state.gov/education/culprop/.

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