Colombia Repatriates 274 Artifacts From US

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Some of the returned artifacts. Twitter@CancilleriaCol

From anthropomorphic figurines to 1,500-year-old Indigenous necklaces, Colombia has recently repatriated 274 ancient objects from the United States.

Colombia’s embassy in Washington has been collecting the artifacts from around the United States since 2018 thanks to “seizures” and voluntary “returns by collectors,” Alhena Caicedo, director of Colombia’s ICANH anthropology and history institute, told AFP.

The pottery, stone, and seashell objects, made by Indigenous communities between 500 BC and 500 AD, were brought back last week by Colombian President Gustavo Petro as he returned from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Now residing at the offices of the foreign affairs ministry in Bogota, AFP was able to view a handful of the ancient artifacts that have been put on display.

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Wearing latex gloves, ICANH officials carefully handled the priceless objects.

Most of those who returned to Colombia were handed over voluntarily by an American woman who inherited them from her late husband. He had acquired them in the southwestern Colombian city of Cali in the 1970s.

Others had been confiscated by the FBI as part of an agreement between the two countries to return cultural objects that have been sold on the black market.

These artifacts “left this country illegally, we don’t know exactly when,” said Caicedo.

They come from various regions of Colombia where peoples such as the Tumaco, Narino, Quimbaya, Tayrona, and Sinu lived before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in 1492.

Colombia says it has another 730 artifacts in its diplomatic missions around the world that need repatriating.

Last year, then-vice president Marta Lucia Ramirez asked the prestigious German auction house, Gerhard Hirsh, to cancel the sale of 25 pieces of pre-Columbian artworks.

Other Latin American countries have made similar requests following complaints from Indigenous people that their assets have been looted.

According to UNESCO, the illegal sale of pillaged cultural artifacts is worth close to $10 billion.


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