Long before Christopher Columbus reached the area now known as Honduras, native peoples of the region, such as the Maya, had a highly developed and complex society. They left a rich cultural heritage to the people of Honduras. That heritage is threatened by a world-wide illicit traffick in cultural artifacts.
Traffickers of illicit artifacts not only rob whole nations of their cultural patrimony, they do irremediable damage to archaeological sites and gravely impede the efforts of archaeologists and historians to reconstruct the buried past.
Thousands of Honduran archeological sites are at risk of pillage, as evidenced by systematic looting in such regions as the Ulua Valley, Copán Valley, Comayagua, and Santa Barbara as well as others.
The United States is working with Honduras to help protect Honduran cultural treasures. On March 11, the U.S. State Department announced the extension of the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding imposing import restrictions on Pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts from Honduras.
The agreement enables the imposition of import restrictions on certain categories of archaeological material dating from approximately 1200 B.C. to approximately 1500 A.D., including objects made of ceramic, metal, stone, shell, and animal bone.
The agreement also calls on both governments to encourage academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and other private entities to share information about the cultural heritage of Honduras, and to collaborate in its preservation and protection.
The U.S. action is in response to a request from the Honduran government under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
The U.S. action also furthers the aims of the 1994 Summit of the Americas action plan to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through the implementation of cultural property protection agreements.
Working with Honduras and other international partners, the U.S. is committed to helping Honduras preserve the irreplaceable legacy of a rich and diverse culture.