The first law on antiquities enacted during the British colonial period was the Antiquities Law of 1905. This law however, did not manage to prevent illicit excavations nor the smuggling of antiquities from the island.
The Department of Antiquities was finally established in 1935, the same year that the new Antiquities Law was enforced, which sets strict rules for the undertaking of excavations.
The Department of Antiquities is part of the Ministry of Communications and Works and is responsible for all archaeological sites, Ancient Monuments, Government Museums and all archaeological activity on the island. It oversees the excavation of archaeological sites, the conservation and restoration of archaeological remains and scheduled ancient monuments, ranging chronologically from the Neolithic period to the 20th century – as defined by the Antiquities Law. Additionally, it carries out the maintenance and expansion of archaeological museums and the creation of new ones, the promotion and use of Ancient Monuments and archaeological sites for didactic purposes and cultural tourism. The Department organises seminars, lectures, exhibitions etc. for the promotion of these aims.
Cultural legislation in Cyprus dates back in the 1900s when the British colonial government passed the first Antiquities Law. In the meantime, various other legal provisions have been adopted in Cyprus legislation, which are related to culture. More specifically, legislation related to Culture are as follows:
- Law on the control of erection and placement of monuments in open spaces (L.79 (Ι)/2006);
- Law which provides for the minimum percentage of adornment with works of art of public buildings (L.57(I)/2009);
- The Cyprus Library Law (L.51/1987);
- The Law on the Foundation and Functioning of Schools of Artistic Dance (L.65(I)/1997);
- The Law for the Recognition of Private and Local Authorities Museums (L.58(I)/2009);
- The Copyright Law (L. 59/1976);
- The Intellectual Property Law (C.264);
- The Law adopting European Council regulation concerning custom´s action against goods suspected of infringing certain intellectual property rights (L.133(I)/2006);
- The Export of Cultural Goods Law (L. 182 (I)/2002);
- The Return of Cultural Goods Law (L. 183 (I)/2002);
- The Cyprus Theatre Organisation Law (L. 71/1970);
- The Cyprus Sports Organisation Law (L. 41/1969);
- The Youth Board of Cyprus Law (L.33(I)/1994);
- The Radio and Television Stations Law (L. 7(I)/1998);
- The Press Law (1989);
- The Antiquities Law (C.31);
- The Antiquities (Amendment) Law (L.103(I)/2012);
- The Listed Buildings Law (L.240(I)/2002);
- The Town and Country Planning Law (L. 90/1972);
- The Law amending the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation Law of 1959 (C. 300) (L.8(I)/1998);
- The Law unifying and reviewing the laws governing the establishment, installation and operation of radio and television stations (L.7(I)/1998);
- The Protection of the Commercial Exploitation of Cinematographic Films Law (L.159/1990); and
- The Act on the classification of cinematographic films (L.238/2002).
International legal instruments ratified by Cyprus are:
- Law for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) (L.86/1979);
- Law for the ratification of the Universal Copyright Convention (L.151/1990);
- Law for the ratification of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (L.50(III)/2005);
- 1954 European Cultural Convention;
- 1954 (Hague) Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention;
- 1954 First Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, The Hague;
- 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;
- 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property;
- 1972 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage;
- 1992 European Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised);
- 2005 UNESCO Convention for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions;
- Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Government of the United States of America concerning the imposition of import restrictions on pre – classical and classical archaeological objects and Byzantine period ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material; and
- Ratifying legislation on the Cultural agreements between the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Governments of other countries according to the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus (Art. 169 §2).