Thursday 12 July 2012

More Stolen and Looted Antiquities Returned from US to Peru

ICE returns stolen and looted art and antiquities to Peru
"Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 14 stolen and looted cultural paintings and artifacts to the government of Peru at a repatriation ceremony at the Embassy of Peru in Washington, D.C. The items were recovered in five separate investigations by special agents of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York; West Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware; and Austin and Houston, Texas".
The usual speeches were exchanged- the usual bla-bla about global patrimony and cooperation and friendship between nations. The usual range of VIPs were seen being "culturally conscious". No mention of course as usual, that anybody had been arrested no names are named.

The archaeological geegaws taken from whoever-was-trying-to-dodge-the-law include: "An ancient Andean textile that may have been used as a woman's belt" (found on eBay), "a ceramic jar from the Moche culture that portrays farmers and fishermen who lived on the river valleys and the arid coastal plain of northern Peru during 100 to 800 A.D." (from a Delaware estate sale), "a bronze ceremonial blade, or tumi, used by the Inca and pre-Inca cultures in the Peruvian coastal region as a sacrificial ceremonial knife" ( from the same estate sale), and "a pre-Columbian Chimu-Inca double-chambered blackware vessel that whistles when it contains liquid" (found on eBay).

So, geegaws. The belt probably taken from a mummy in grave-robbing, a pot with pictures on it which because its burial context is now unknown because of the looting cannot be dated closer than 700 years, a sacrificial knife (excellent conversation piece for regaling the guests at your cocktail parties with). Then we have the "whistling pot", these are typical of the sort of things that wow gimmick-seeking collectors of pre-columbian "art" - but not the stuff of avocational para-archaeological scholarship really aiming to understand life of these people and their cultures. Gimmicks and geegaws.

The estate sale is interesting:
The Moche ceramic jar and the bronze ceremonial knife were consigned by an estate trust in order to be sold at an auction house in Madison, N.J., and necessitated grand jury subpoenas issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware. HSI's investigation determined that the objects were removed from Peru in violation of Peruvian law and brought into the United States in violation of U.S. Customs laws and regulations. Specifically, the objects had been removed in violation of a U.S. – Peru bilateral agreement negotiated by the U.S. Department of State and enacted in 1997, which restricts the importation of pre-Columbian artifacts and colonial-era religious objects into the United States without proper export documents.
This means that the effects of the negligence of a buyer today to get the proper documentation to make a transaction legal will be passed on to those who have to deal with their inheritance after they have passed on.

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