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Inside-Peru Newsletter, Issue #019 - Robbing the Cradle
November 08, 2012
Peru: The Illegal Trafficking of Cultural Artifacts
Lin and I have recently had several inquiries regarding how to sell old Peruvian objects.
Two of the inquiries had to do with pottery and other objects that had been owned by a now-deceased relative.
Can these be sold on the open market? Good question.
With help from Michelle in Cusco, we researched the ongoing battle between Peru and "collectors."
Antiquities - The Ongoing ChallengePeru is well-known for its strong heritage and cultural roots in various indigenous groups. Along with the Incas, various civilizations from the Pre-Columbian era have contributed values, language, music, and art to Peruvian history.
These native people created some of the most colorful and valuable artifacts known to the country, many of which have been preserved throughout the centuries.
Unfortunately, illegal trafficking has been on the rise in Peru, forcing the Peruvian government into a battle to recover artifacts that have been smuggled out of the country.
Illegal trafficking in Peru has centered on the stealing of historic items, such as pottery, sculptures, paintings, and skulls.
These items are usually stolen from churches and museums, although some are excavated at archaeological locations.
HuaquerosThe diggers are called huaqueros (looters) and their minefields are usually old
graveyards or ancient burial sites.
Huaqueros comes from the word "huaco" meaning sacred, although the antiquities dug up and sold by the huaqueros, of course, include anything of value, such as the pottery seen here from the Nazca civilization.
Cusco and surrounding areas have long been a target, as this was the capital city of the Incas. The main objective of huaqueros is money - mainly the illegal sale and trade of these antiquities abroad.
Legal or Illegal?Once out of the country, Peruvian artifacts are usually bound for international auctions.
In fact, the Peruvian government is often tipped off about stolen artifacts when these items appear in auctions abroad.
The legal battles initiated by this government represent whole-hearted efforts to recover artifacts from their history.
Within the past year, the United States has returned various antiquities and paintings that had been illegally stolen out of Peru.
In recent years, Spain and Sweden were also found to be housing hundreds of stolen items from Peru, which were ultimately returned to the country.
No End in SightWith no end in sight, Peru continues to battle for its cultural heritage with a focus on prevention to minimize illegal trafficking of its artifacts.
The bottom line for most of us as far as Peruvian antiquities goe is - if it's for sale, it's either a fake or it's illegal. Buyer beware!
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