What is Greece doing to protect its cultural heritage?

Athenian pottery at Sotheby's New YorkGILL, D.. Looting Matters for Classical Antiquities: Contemporary Issues in Archaeological Ethics. Present Pasts, North America, 1, apr. 2010.

The Hellenic Republic was one of the first countries in Europe to adopt cultural heritage laws. In 1834, a law (Law 10/22 of May 1834) stated that “all antiquities within Greece, being works of the ancestors o the Greek peoples, are considered national property belonging to all Greeks…” and further states that  “all ruins or other antiquities…found on national land or under it, on sea bed, in rovers, public streams, lakes or mashes, are the property of the State.”

The above legislation was replaces in 2002 by the law 3028/2002 “On The Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in General” which pertains to ancient moveable and immoveable monuments and other protected cultural objects that date to prehistoric, ancient, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine times.

Recognizing the importance of sites where Greek antiquities are “laundered” before sale in the antiquities trade, the Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and his Swiss counterpart Pascal Couchepin agreed to cooperate on combating the illegal traffic of antiquities. In May of 2007 an agreement was signed in Bern to facilitate the prosecution of Greek antiquities traffickers who use Switzerland in their network.

A new law was enacted in 2008, 3658/2008, which established a Directorate within the Ministry of Culture dealing exclusively  with the protection of cultural property from illicit trafficking. This law also provides for the international jurisdiction of the Greek courts in matters concerning rights of ownership and possession of moveable monuments, as provided by the antiques and cultural heritage law 3028/2002, and the EU community legislation, and the European and international conventions to which Greece is a state party and which concern the protection of cultural and archaeological heritage.

For more information about CPAC, please visit the U.S. State Department International Cultural Property Protection web site.

—Senta German