Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Important Archaeological Pieces Are Returned to Costa Rica

Laura Alvarado, 'Important Archaeological Pieces Are Returned to Costa Rica' The Costa Rica Star December 30, 2017
Nearly 200 Pre-Columbian stone and ceramic artefacts are being returned to Costa Rica after having been taken out of the country to Venezuela illegally. Among the items are two stone spheres; two metates; sculptures of human figures, among many other historic pieces from three different regions in the country, the Central –Atlantic Zone, the North Pacific-Guanacaste Area and Diquis, Osa.
All pieces were found in a mansion in Venezuela, property of Harry Mannil Laul, a known collector who used to travel a lot between both countries. Mannil passed away in 2010 in his house in San Rafael de Heredia, Costa Rica and in this residence the authorities also confiscated over 100 pre-Columbian objects. In this same year, Venezuelan customs authorities confiscated 56 pieces that had 'New York, USA' as a last destination, as a result of this Mannil’s house was searched in 2011. The authorities found a “small museum” in the house and it was subject to two more searches that took place in 2015. In order for this archeological treasure to be returned to the country the National Museum had to invest over US $22,000.00; the process was completed with the help of the consul of Costa Rica to Venezuela, Ana Patricia Villalobos and in cooperation with the National Gallery and the Cultural Heritage Institute of Venezuela. Villalobos stated that the return of the lot is of great significance to the country not just because of the large number of pieces but also because some of them are unique and there are no similar ones in the country.
Collectors often claim they are preserving history, but in cases like these it can be seen what they are really doing is selfishly hoarding for themselves and thereby depriving others of their history (destroyed in the looting) and cultural heritage. Note also how much the effort to sort out the mess left by a single dead collector concerning just a part of his collection. Here the lack of papers responsibly documenting collecting histories is a significant factor.

The Estonian businessman Harry Männil (May 17, 1920 – January 11, 2010), also known as Harry Mannil Laul[a], was a controversial figure in his lifetime, mainly connected with unproven allegations about what he was involved in during the 1940s Nazi occupation of Estonia.

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