Looted Guatemalan and Mexican artefacts—stashed in a German farmhouse cellar—are returned

The 13 Mayan objects were handed back in a ceremony in Berlin today

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One of the two Teotithuacan figures dating between 250 and 450 AD. Photo: police

One of the two Teotithuacan figures dating between 250 and 450 AD. Photo: police

Thirteen ancient artefacts believed to have been illegally excavated and discovered after years in the cellar of a German farmhouse were returned to Mexico and Guatemala at a ceremony in Berlin today.

The Mayan artefacts, including two clay figures from Teotithuacan, a vase, plates and fragments, date from between 250 and 850 AD, according to a statement from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where the items were found. Press reports said the value of the hoard was at least €100,000.

The items were discovered a year ago, after the former inhabitant of a farmhouse in Klötze, east of Hanover, informed the police that he had hidden guns belonging to his grandfather in the cellar, the regional TV station MDR reported. When the police arrived, they also found the clay artefacts, MDR said. The TV station said police have ended their investigation and are pursuing no charges against the man.

“The illegal trade in cultural property must be prevented and fought,” Reiner Haseloff, the prime minister of Saxony-Anhalt, said in a statement. “Looted heritage is a subject that affects us all. Illegally excavated artefacts and colonial loot are not only to be found in our museums and archives. Sometimes, they are in our cellars and attics.”

The Guatemalan ambassador in Germany, Jorge Alfredo Lemcke Arevalo, said he hoped other private owners would be encouraged to return looted artefacts. The Mexican ambassador, Francisco Quiroga, described the items as having “high symbolic and cultural significance” and said their return was “an excellent example” for other governments.

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