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Foreign Minister Ebrard and the four pieces on display at a ceremony Friday in Paris. Foreign Minister Ebrard and the four pieces on display at a ceremony Friday in Paris.

French family returns 4 pre-Hispanic artifacts to Mexico

The pieces could be more than 2,000 years old

A French family returned four pre-Hispanic clay artifacts to Mexico in a ceremony held Friday in the Mexican Embassy in Paris.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who attended the ceremony, said the figurines, vessel and pipe – which are possibly more than 2,000 years old – will be placed in the care of the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.

Three of the pieces are believed to be from western Mexico and one likely originates in the country’s Gulf region, according to Íngrid Arriaga of the Cultural Institute of Mexico in France.

The two human-form figurines probably came from shaft tombs that were used in parts of the country where the modern day states of Jalisco and Nayarit are located.

Arriaga told the news agency AFP that the bulbous vessel returned by the family is typical of artifacts from western Mexico, while a pipe in the form of a zoomorphic figure is typical of the Gulf region, home to the Olmecs, widely regarded as creators of the first civilization in Mesoamerica.

“Being able to recover these goods is a great thing for us,” Ebrard told a press conference in the French capital.

“We’re making progress every day in making illegal trafficking more difficult and recovering our historical and cultural wealth,” said the foreign minister, who shared a video of the recovered pieces on his Twitter account.

The family who returned the artifacts requested anonymity. The day before they were given back, Mexican and French officials signed an agreement committing to strengthen bilateral cooperation against the illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts.

Mexico has increased efforts in recent years to recover pre-Hispanic artifacts that left Mexico – some of which were looted from archaeological sites – and found their way to private collections, as well as the auction block in some cases. But it has had difficulty recovering pieces from France due to the laws in that country.

The auction house Christies sold 36 of 39 Mesoamerican and Andean artifacts that went on the block in Paris in February, including 30 Mexican pieces. The auction, which raised more than US $3 million, went ahead despite protests by the Mexican government.

With reports from AFP 

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