The US returned close to 100 archaeological objects to the Mexican government last week in a repatriation ceremony in Alpine, Texas. Stolen in 2008 from a private collection and museum in Cuatro Ciénegas (a city roughly 300km northwest of Monterrey), the antiquities had been seized by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents in 2009, and many of them were returned in 2012. The remaining pieces were given back to Mexico on 22 August, according to a press release. The objects, authenticated by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, include arrowheads, spear points, a Spanish silver coin and a terracotta figurine.
“The pieces returned today are rare treasures of past civilisations that should be enjoyed by everyone, not by a few interested only in lining their pockets,” said HSI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Francisco B. Burrola in a statement.
Many pre-Hispanic artefacts have been returned to Mexico from the US in the past few months—like an ornate incense burner and a one-tonne statue of an Olmec “Earth monster”. These have been largely attributed to the success of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende (#My Heritage Is Not For Sale) campaign, which has had an influence throughout the world, as seen in the recent return of objects from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
In the past 16 years, more than 20,000 stolen items have been repatriated to their home countries as a result of HSI investigations. These have included paintings, sarcophagi, statues, coins, illuminated manuscripts, cuneiform tablets, religious artefacts and architectural drawings stolen from Jewish communities during the Holocaust given back to Italy, Iraq, Mali, India and France.