On April 24-27, 2012, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of State will meet to review a proposal to renew the bilateral agreement with Guatemala that has been in place since 1997 and that is set to expire in September 2012.

Maya altar recovered from looters
A.L. Demarest
Close-up of an ancient Maya altar recovered from looters in Guatemala

We urge everyone who cares about this issue, and particularly people who can speak from experience, to attend the hearing and present testimony or send a letter in support of the renewal of the bilateral agreement. Whether you’re a student, a volunteer on an archaeological dig, a professional archaeologist, we urge you to get involved and write to CPAC addressing the four determinations (found under Section 303(a) of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act) summarized hereSubmit your statement no later than April 3, 2012, 11:59 p.m. (EDT) using the instructions found at this link.

Guatemala and the US’s collaboration to stem the looting problem began in 1991. Facing a flood of looted and smuggled Guatemalan artifacts, the U.S. took emergency action to restrict the flow of illegally excavated archaeological items. In September of 1997, Guatemala and the U.S. went one important step further, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that restricted imports of pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts from throughout Guatemala. The MOU was renewed in 2002 and again in 2007.

Read more about bilateral agreements here and read a letter supporting renewal of the Agreement from Clemency Coggins here.

Here’s why…