Los Angeles – At a repatriation ceremony held at the FBI Offices in Los Angeles, FBI Assistant Director in Charge, Deirdre Fike, and Los Angeles-based Consul General of Guatemala, Roberto Archila, met to view Mayan artifacts that will be returned to the country of Guatemala. Seven pieces, all of which are more than one thousand years old, were on display for members of the media.
The items displayed were a collection of limestone sculptures that were traced to ancient ruins in Guatemala from a period known as the “pre-Columbian” era. “The cultural significance of these pre-Columbian artifacts is priceless to the people of Guatemala,” said Assistant Director Fike. “I’m very pleased that the FBI’s Art Crime Team was able to facilitate the return of these ancient treasures to their proper home.”
The items came to the attention of the FBI’s Art Crime Team earlier this year when an individual managing the art collection of the owner made contact. The individual could not determine the date the items were brought to the United States and elected to transfer custody of the artifacts to the FBI for repatriation to the Republic of Guatemala. The U.S. signed the 1970 UNESCO Convention addressing the illicit trafficking of cultural property around the world. Under the implementing legislation, the U.S. has a bilateral agreement with the Republic of Guatemala which restricts the importation of archaeology artifacts into the U.S. In the spirit of the agreement, the FBI is facilitating the return of these artifacts.
*The items to be repatriated are generally described as follows according to a variety of noted scholars with an expertise in Mayan culture and artifacts with whom the FBI consulted.
*Three of the pieces are part of a Mayan hieroglyphic inscription carved in limestone with provenance originating in the Petexbatun Region of Guatemala. The pieces are believed to date to the Late Classic Maya Era (A.D. 600-900). Experts conclude these fragments were discovered outside a ruined temple building and that the inscription is part of a text which recorded the passage of time, a calendar of sorts.
*Four of the pieces are Mayan limestone with provenance originating in the El Peru area of Guatemala and are believed to date to the Early Classic Period (A.D. 400- 600). Experts conclude these pieces are consistent with Mayan iconography, and that the carvings are associated with symbolism depicting an earth or mountain monster.
The pieces will be properly packaged and shipped to Guatemala in the coming days. The Guatemalan government will determine the most appropriate place to house and display the artifacts.
The FBI established a rapid deployment Art Crime Team in 2004 composed of 16 specially trained special agents, each responsible for addressing art and cultural property crime cases in an assigned geographic region. The Team maintains the National Stolen Art File, a database of stolen art and cultural property entered by law enforcement and others worldwide. Anyone with information about a work of art in the National Stolen Art File is urged to contact the FBI.
Since its inception, the Art Crime Team has recovered more than 14,850 items, including the recovery of hundreds of artifacts looted from archeological sites, valued at over $165 million. For additional information about the FBI’s Art Crime Team, please visit: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/art-theft