WASHINGTON – The U.S. government on Wednesday returned to Peru a batch of 25 pre-Columbian items recovered by the authorities, including 12 skulls that data from the years 640 to 890 and ceramics from the Nazca, Inca and Moche civilizations.
“We’re very satisfied with this cooperation that allows us to recover pieces that truly are very important for preserving our culture and hand them down to future generations,” Peruvian Ambassador Luis Valdivieso said.
The delivery of the items was accomplished in a brief ceremony at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, where – in addition to Valdivieso – Kevin Perkins of the FBI and Gina Holland, an official with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, were on hand.
The United States and Peru signed an accord in 1997 imposing legal restrictions on the importation of a wide range of archaeological pieces and material from the colonial period.
These restrictions allow U.S. authorities to confiscate and return to the Andean nation those pieces that do not have the proper export permits, thus avoiding their being sold on the black market or disappearing into smuggling networks.
“This repatriation continues a long tradition between our countries of locating, investigating and returning items that are part of the history of Peru,” ICE’s Holland said. “These are irreplaceable and not souvenirs to be sold to the highest bidder. These are priceless pieces of a culture and clues to a region’s traditions and history.”
The skulls were discovered at the Miami International Airport in 2003 hidden among handicrafts of little value, but since the consignee never showed up to collect the shipment, they wound up in an auction house, which – because of doubts as to the legitimacy of their origin – contacted the authorities.
Two colonial-era Peruvian paintings were recovered thanks to the collaboration of a gallery owner in Richmond, Virginia, who suspected the origin of the works when some smugglers came to him to try to sell them.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizen John Chamberlin, who acquired some of the archaeological pieces returned on Wednesday when he lived in Peru in the 1970s, finally decided to turn them over voluntarily to the authorities.
The returned antiquities “are not only for the Peruvian public but so the world can see how our forebears had important cultural, artistic, architectural and all sorts of development,” Valdivieso said. EFE