The United States government has a wide range of legal tools to stem the flood of looted antiquities entering the American market.
Together with 126 other nations around the world, the U.S. is party to the 1970 UNECSO Convention, which seeks to prohibit and prevent the illicit trade in cultural heritage. Congress implemented this law with the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). Among other things, the CPIA gives the President authority to impose import restrictions on archaeological and ethnographic materials in danger of pillage. This is accomplished through bilateral agreements, also known as memoranda of understanding, with other countries.
We currently have these “MOUs” or similar “Emergency Actions” with 16 nations around the world from China to Italy, to Peru. There is an especially large concentration in Central America. But these are not the only countries that desperately need such agreements.
To illustrate, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) maintains a “Global Conflict Tracker,” which is an interactive map to “hotspots” around the world. Not surprisingly given recent news, here, the largest concentration of flash points is centered over the Middle East and North African (MENA) Region. And, as the recent news also shows us, conflict zones are breeding grounds for antiquities looting and trafficking
For comparison, the Antiquities Coalition mapped out the nations that currently have MOUs or Emergency Actions with the U.S. Of the 16 agreements in place, however just one overlaps with the MENA countries singled out by the CFR: Iraq.