Eighteen Mayan artifacts have returned to the Guatemalan National Palace after being repossessed from private collectors across Europe, the Ministry of Culture and Sports announced.
The collection of pre-Columbian pottery and sculptures arrived in Guatemala Tuesday after more than 50 years in Germany, Italy and Switzerland, Minister Jose Luis Chea said.
The artifacts, which range from loose pieces, bowls, plates and ceramic figures, date from 250 to 900 AD and will be a welcome addition to the other remnants from the early classical period of Mayan civilization.
According to Chea, the 18 archaeological treasures originated from sites in the northeast and southern parts of the country and its European audience acquired them through illicit means in the 1960s.
The Guatemalan government was able to reacquire the artifacts after coordinating with the chancelleries in the three countries, successfully convincing the owners to return the items voluntarily.
"The pieces are visible objects, but in their content they represent a small piece of national identity," Chea said.
Chea explained that Guatemalan culture has been exploited with a history filled with stories of looting and plundering. Every artifact stands as a “silent ambassador” for an ancient culture which spread across Latin America.
A similar incident occurred last year, when 12 vessels, masks and pottery pieces were recovered from museums in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the United States and El Salvador.
An exhibit called “Retrieving Testimony of Our History” is displaying approximately 30 pieces of reappropriated archaeological artifacts from around the world and will remain open to the public through the month of November and December.
The Mayan culture had its splendor in the so-called classic period until it entered a period of decline in the post-Classic period between 900 and 1200 AD. This rich civilization expanded through the territories that currently cover Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras.