Jordan and the United States share a long history of cooperation, which began with the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 1949. Their shared values and commitment to peace, stability, and progress have allowed Jordan to receive support from the United States to deal with both internal and external vulnerabilities.
Jordan, a nation in an ancient land steeped in history, bears the traces of many civilizations. It has been home to some of the world’s great civilizations, which can still be seen today in its rich archaeological and natural sites. Jordan’s cultural heritage constitutes a national treasure and requires concrete measures to preserve and protect it from illegal excavation, illicit trade, and other threats. To achieve this goal, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the United States of America and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on December 16, 2019, invoking the 1970 UNESCO Convention of the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, to which both countries are party. The memorandum aims to mitigate the impacts of these threats.
As a result of the collaboration between the United States and Jordan to combat illicit trafficking, in March 2022 the Embassy returned nine antiquities to Jordan. These artifacts, which had been illegally exported to the United States, span many thousands of years of Jordan’s history and heritage, from the Neolithic (c. 9th–7th millennia BCE) to Roman times (c. 500 CE).
The repatriated artifacts, representing a wide variety of Jordan’s ancient historical periods and cultures: Neolithic clay figurines (c. 9th–7th millennia BCE), a stone object from the Chalcolithic period (“Copper Age”) thought to be a household altar, a figure of the goddess Astarte, a bronze Hellenistic wine pitcher (c. 3rd century BCE), and Roman-era Jewish and Christian tombstones (c. 500 CE).
In relation to the memorandum of understanding, the American Center of Research and Jordan’s Department of Antiquities launched the U.S. Department of State-funded project “Establishing a National Cultural Heritage Property Database in the Kingdom of Jordan.”
The launch of the project was in the presence of the Ambassador of the United States of America Henry T. Wooster, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Gavito. The nine trafficked cultural antiquities that were returned to Jordan from the United States in March 2022 were displayed during the launch.
The project proposes to create and manage a national cultural heritage property inventory system for Jordan. After establishing the system with robust safeguards on the entry and modification of data, the project will achieve significant progress in populating the database, training government employees to use and maintain the database, and encouraging its use by other stakeholders working in the country.
In this collaborative effort with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, the American Center will provide several essentials necessary for success, including: the demonstrated capacity to implement such complex projects, critical expertise and staffing, technological know-how, oversight and accountability, and a plan for long-term sustainability.