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Inside-Peru Newsletter, Issue #019 - Robbing the Cradle
November 08, 2012


Peru: The Illegal Trafficking of Cultural Artifacts

David and Lin SchneiderLin 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 Challenge

Peru 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.


The 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.

huaqueros grave robbers Peru pottery
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 Sight

With 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!

Latest updates:

Nov 2, 2012

Punta Veleros towards Los Organos Beach

We lived in Los Organos for 1-1/2 years until 2011. We'll be returning there but likely going farther south near Trujillo. From our apartment in Los

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Oct 25, 2012

American Adding Direct Flights to Lima, Peru from Dallas/Fort Worth

American Airlines today announced it will begin new daily internationalservice from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport to Lima,Peru and to Seoul, South Korea, starting in the spring of 2013.American will serve Incheon International Airport in Seoul with Boeing777-200 aircraft starting on May 9, 2013, and will fly from DFW to Limautilizing Boeing 757 aircraft starting on April 2 of next year. Read more...

Oct 11, 2012

El Tambo, Ossining, NY- USA

They were master sculptor-architects. They built forts and palaces where none would be recommended, and even put in plumbing! They mixed Baroque art

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