Friday, December 1, 2023

Mexico condemns Dutch website for auction of pre-Hispanic artifacts

The federal government is once again attempting to stop an international auction of pre-Hispanic artifacts.

The Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a joint statement Tuesday that 38 archaeological items that are part of the “cultural heritage of the Mexican nation” are listed on the Dutch-owned online auction platform Catawiki.

The authorities condemned the sale of the items and noted that Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto has called on Catawiki and the vendors who have listed Mexican pre-Hispanic items on the site to terminate the auction, “taking into account the historic, symbolic and cultural value of the assets, … which is greater than any commercial interest.”

They also said that INAH has filed a complaint with the federal Attorney General’s Office and notified Interpol with a view to having the items seized and repatriated.

Mexico's Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto
Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto has called upon the auction site Catawiki to terminate the sale. Alejandra Frausto/Twitter

Among the pre-Hispanic Mexican items listed for sale are a clay figurine of a Mayan dignitary or priest, a stone Mezcala culture mask and a terracotta figure of a warrior that originates from the region where the modern-day state of Nayarit is located.

Bidding on the 38 items identified as Mexican cultural assets is scheduled to end on Nov. 20. “The pieces … cover a timespan ranging from … 300 B.C. to A.D. 1500,” the Culture Ministry and INAH said.

“… The assets deemed to be of pre-Columbian origin have a cultural affiliation with the styles of the Gulf coast of Mexico, the Maya area, the central highlands, the western shaft tomb tradition and with the Casas Grandes culture, which was established in the territory now occupied by Mexico’s north,” the Mexican government agencies both said.

Maya artifact being sold at auction against will of Mexican government
The seller of this figure — of either of a Maya dignitary or priest — says that it is from sometime between A.D. 500-800. Catawiki

Mexico has attempted to stop numerous international auctions of pre-Hispanic artifacts, but has only had limited success. Many items considered cultural assets have been sold at auction in cities such as Paris and New York.

Despite that, nearly 9,000 pre-Hispanic pieces have been recovered over the past three years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said recently, a figure that includes more than 50 items whose repatriation was announced in September.

Mexico News Daily 

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