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Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 26, 2007


United States and Guatemala Extend Agreement to Protect Archaeological Heritage of Guatemala

The U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce the extension of the "Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Guatemala Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Objects and Material from the Pre-Columbian Cultures of Guatemala." Effective September 29, 2007, this extension represents a continuation of cooperation that began in 1991 when emergency U.S. import restrictions were implemented to stem the problem of pillage of Guatemala's rich Maya heritage and the illicit trafficking in such material. The extension is consistent with a recommendation made by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to the Department.

This U.S. action is in response to a request made by the Government of Guatemala 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. The Convention offers a framework of cooperation among State Parties to reduce the further pillage of intact archaeological sites, activity that destroys information about past cultures and places a nation's cultural heritage in jeopardy.

Beginning approximately 900 B.C., the pre-Columbian Maya and other cultures inhabited Guatemala's Petén region for thousands of years. They developed intricate writing, as well as advanced mathematical, astronomical and calendrical systems and came to be considered one of the great civilizations of the world. Guatemala is home to well-known sites such as Tikal and El Perú-Waka', large ceremonial and population centers with sophisticated architectural features. Scientific investigation of inscriptions on temples and other monumental architecture as well as on ceramic vessels and other objects has revealed detailed records of the daily life and history of the ancient Maya. However, over many decades, wholesale depredation to sites in the Petén and other parts of Guatemala has resulted in the loss to science and history of an incalculable amount of information.

The Department of Homeland Security has published a Designated List of restricted categories of objects. The restricted objects may enter the United States if accompanied with an export permit issued by Guatemala or documentation verifying its provenance prior to 1991 and if no other applicable U.S. laws are violated. The Designated List and information about the MOU can be found at http://exchanges.state.gov/culprop.

2007/810

Released on September 26, 2007

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