A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The United States has imposed an emergency import ban on Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual objects from Cyprus unaccompanied by export permits issued by the Republic of Cyprus. Effective April 12, the restriction comes in response to a Cypriot request under the 1970 UNESCO convention on cultural property, to which both countries are party. Restricted works include fourth- through fifteenth-century bronze, silver, and gold ceremonial vessels and objects used in church ritual, such as censers and liturgical crosses; icons and carved wooden doors; ivory and bone objects engraved with biblical scenes; ecclesiastical vestments; and mosaics and frescoes. Cyprus applied for the ban last September, saying pillage of this material jeopardized its cultural patrimony (see "Church Treasures of Cyprus," July/August 1998).
"We welcome and are heartened by the measures taken by the U.S. government in accordance with the relevant 1970 UNESCO convention," Ambassador Zackheos of Cyprus told Archaeology. "Unfortunately for 25 years the international community has been passively watching the destruction of the cultural heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus without taking steps to put an end to this unacceptable situation. The systematic looting of churches and plundering of the religious, historical, and cultural treasures constitute an affront to the collective conscience of humankind, and it is high time that impunity for such acts ends."
The United States has bilateral agreements or emergency import restrictions under the UNESCO convention with Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mali, and Peru. For more information on these and representative images of restricted Cypriot objects, see the International Cultural Property Protection website.