Historical objects looted from Mexican archaeological sites are often shipped overseas to countries such as the United States, Spain, Germany and Italy, according to the federal government.
Investigations conducted by the Federal Police have found that criminal organizations dedicated to the theft of pre-Hispanic objects use international parcel companies to send their loot to purchasers abroad.
Among the artifacts that are commonly stolen are ceramic figures, arrowheads, stone objects and wooden sculptures made by the Maya, Olmec, Toltec, Mixtec, Teotihuacán and Mexica peoples, among others.
There are no precise figures about how many artifacts have been stolen in Mexico and sold abroad but considering the high incidence of the crime, the number is likely to be significant.
The federal Attorney General’s Office has, however, managed to recover some relics that ended up in the United States and Europe.
Im April, the FBI returned two archaeological pieces that had been stolen from a central Mexican site of the Teotihuacán culture, while last year two wooden Olmec busts were sent back to Mexico from Germany after an almost 10-year-long legal battle.
The latter relics, which date back more than 3,000 years, were stolen from the El Manatí site in Veracruz.
The Attorney General’s Office has also had domestic success in seizing stolen historical objects, recovering at least 634 pieces in Mexico between 2008 and 2018. The highest number of objects were located in the states of Jalisco, Tlaxcala, Mexico City, Nuevo León, Guanajuato and Zacatecas.
More than 40% of Mexico’s archaeological sites and historic monuments have been looted, according to the Institute of Anthropology and History.
Stealing and selling historical objects is a federal crime punishable by a prison term of five to 12 years in addition to a fine.
Source: El Universal (sp)