The Latin American Herald Tribune ('Peru Police Seize Looted Mummy' March 30th 2010) carries an Andina news agency report that as the result of investigations by Cuzco police intelligence agents several people are expected to be charged with crimes against national heritage:
The mummy of a child along with several pre-Columbian ceramics were seized by Peruvian police from traffickers who planned to sell them on the black market [...] the looted antiquities were recovered last Friday from two residences in the southern region of Cuzco [...] The mummy was discovered in the first home to be inspected, and was found covered with an Inca cloak and in an apparent state of decomposition.Found in the same residence was a fabric of the Paracas culture, along with 23 pre-Inca ceramics from the Chavin and Mochica cultures.Confiscated from the second home that the police entered were 15 Inca ceramics.The objects seized were apparently to be shown to potential buyers and sold to the highest bidder, according to police.
A similar story with picture of naked child mummy in a cardboard box can be found Police recover Inca mummy among artefacts to sold on black market: EnPeruBlog, March 29, 2010 This adds the comments:
Poor rural Peruvians are disconnected from their heritage, so much so that the vast majority of archaeological sites in Peru have been completely destroyed beyond all hope of recovery. Most sites look like the lunar surface, covered in holes dug by the tomb robbers. If you wonder why we know so little about pre-Columbian cultures, ask the guy who lives down the street from you.Actually its not so much "disconnected from any heritage" that is the problem, it is that others are willing to give them money no-questions-asked for whatever dug-up saleable goods they can bring them. Looting pays. More controversially "As soon as ancient artefacts are safely out of Peru, they are openly sold through large auction houses like Christie’s who support the illegal trade in cultural heritage". I do not think a Christies spokesman would be too happy about the way that is phrased.
Nevertheless dealers in and collectors of complete pots of whatever culture are well aware that the most frequently ocur in graves and tombs. The indiscriminate buying of antiquities in a trade fuelled by the commercial robbing of graves for collectables is well illustrated by that decaying corpse in southern Cuzco. The antiquities trade in its present form stinks.
Vignette: Not for collecting for entertainment and profit, these are the remains of real people (National Geographic)