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AC Shares How Archeologists Can Help Combat Cultural Racketeering at the Society for American Archeology Annual Meeting

April 30, 2024

Since the AC’s founding, a key priority has been shutting American markets to illicit antiquities, while increasing responsible cultural exchange. At the 89th Society for American Archeology Annual Meeting, the AC’s Executive Director, Tess Davis, and Director of Programs, Helena Arose, hosted a forum discussion on a specific way that American archaeologists can support this effort.

The forum brought together speakers with experience from the fields of law, archaeology, and government to discuss the importance of Cultural Property Agreements (CPAs). CPAs between the United States and foreign governments help to stop criminal activity at U.S. borders by keeping looted and stolen art and artifacts out of American markets. Under U.S. and international law, the U.S. can join CPAs to prevent looted and stolen antiquities and artifacts from entering the American art market, fighting the illicit trade while allowing the legal trade to continue and even thrive. 

These agreements aim to lessen global demand for illicitly-obtained or looted objects—especially since the U.S. makes up some 42% of the global art market—while increasing responsible cultural exchange. The U.S. has signed CPAs with a growing number of countries around the world generating mutual respect, strengthening global law enforcement, and protecting archaeological heritage in situ.

Before a Cultural Property Advisory Committee meeting at which a new CPA or the renewal of an existing CPA is considered, members of the public may submit comments on the proposed CPA via and/or request time to give testimony during a CPAC public session. Archeologists have first-hand knowledge of any crimes related to cultural racketeering, and their knowledge can become powerful testimonies to the committee. 

The panelists discussed tips for archaeologists interested in submitted comments or providing testimony: 

  • Write or speak from your own personal knowledge or experience as an archaeologist. 
  • Focus on addressing the four determinations a requesting country must satisfy to achieve a CPA. It is not necessary to address all four. 
  • If providing testimony, be prepared to answer questions from the Committee.

To learn more about CPAs, the process, and how to get involved, check out the AC’s FAQ here