The Antiquities Coalition commends the United States and Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for their recent actions to strengthen their diplomatic ties while better safeguarding our shared world heritage.
Yesterday in Amman, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Marie Royce, and Jordan’s Director General of the Department of Antiquities, Yazid Elayyan, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reinforce their countries’ joint fight against the illicit trade in ancient art and artifacts.
The MOU restricts the import of designated Jordanian cultural property into the United States absent proof that it left the country legally. Objects covered include those under high threat of looting, such as coins, manuscripts, stones, ceramics, glass, mosaics, and human, animal, and plant remains ranging in time frames of 1.5 million years BC to about 1750 AD. The agreement also seeks to increase responsible cultural exchange through traveling exhibitions, museum loans, and research projects.
By partnering with the United States, the world’s largest art market, Jordan’s cultural heritage will enjoy stronger protections, while at the same time, American consumers will also be protected from unknowingly buying stolen property. The partnership will ideally cut down the global demand for illicit cultural items from Jordan and return some already lost to their rightful home.
The MOU encompasses Jordan’s rich cultural history ranges from the Paleolithic era to the rise of the Ottomans. Previously, Jordan ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention of the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property in 1974. It has since worked tirelessly to protect its cultural sites and objects from theft, clandestine excavation, and illegal export.
However, despite this progress, Jordan’s fight to protect its heritage has been an uphill battle. Looting was reported as early as the 1930s. Today none of Jordan’s historical chapters have been spared, with losses reported from sites dating to the Early Bronze Age, Iron Age, Nabatean/Roman period, Islamic period and beyond. While many incidences of looting are reported (around 100 a year), more still go unreported given the clandestine nature of the illicit trade.
Jordan’s agreement is the twentieth between the United States and a foreign government and the fourth with an Arab state, following MOUs with Egypt (2016), Libya (2018), and Algeria (2019). We also urge other countries to seek similar agreements that can better protect cultural heritage from looting and trafficking. We likewise call on members of the international community concerned with heritage preservation to join in support of Jordan’s protection initiatives. Currently, the State Department is considering requests from Morocco and Yemen, and will meet in January to consider requests from Tunisia and Turkey.
About the Antiquities Coalition
The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering, the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at theantiquitiescoalition.org. Follow us on Twitter @CombatLooting.