The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) yesterday submitted public comments supporting Bulgaria's request for a Memorandum of Understanding that would implement US import protections covering cultural artifacts. The comments were made to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee by Peter Herdrich, chief executive officer of the AIA:
"Dear Cultural Property Advisory Council,
I write to you to urge your support for the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Bulgaria in order to help protect the cultural and archaeological heritage of this great and historic country. As Chief Executive Officer of the Archaeological Institute of America, I can assure you that our 235,000 members speak with one voice on this issue, agreeing that we should do whatever we can to create import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material from across Bulgaria’s long history. Our members include professional archaeologists with academic and research interests in Bulgarian material, archaeological enthusiasts with a curiosity about Bulgaria’s past, and students who form the next generation of scholars. All recognize the value of Bulgaria’s unique archaeological patrimony. And that patrimony is under threat. In the January/February 2009 issue of ARCHAEOLOGY magazine, the entire country was listed as one on the world’s most endangered sites and described thus: 'Like its neighbors, Bulgaria is rich in archaeological remains—ancient Greek, Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. But rather than draw millions of visitors each year to its ancient sites, this poor Balkan country mainly exports its cultural heritage. The transition from Communism to a free market economy has left Bulgaria exposed to the swirling forces of the global illicit antiquities trade. Desperate poverty means huge numbers of Bulgarians…are involved in the trade.' The members of the Archaeological Institute of America agree that the United States should do whatever we can to stamp out that trade that threatens sites across Bulgaria and to support Bulgarian heritage. Therefore we ask that on November 16, you recommend the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding between our government and the government of the Republic of Bulgaria. Sincerely, Peter Herdrich Archaeological Institute of America"
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