Eight artifacts that were illegally exported from Guatemala in two separate incidents were officially returned to the country at a repatriation ceremony Friday at the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington.
Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) repatriated the eight Maya culture ceramic artifacts, circa 600 to 900 A.D., to Guatemala’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Harold Caballeros.
The artifacts were seized following a 2011 investigation conducted by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston and a 2009 inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Houston.
The ICE case began in January 2011, when the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture contacted HSI to request investigative assistance pertaining to objects at an auction house. The ministry had identified several antiquities at the Skinner Auction House in Marlborough, Mass., that they believed were the cultural property of the people of Guatemala.
HSI’s investigation concluded that the two antiquities were removed from Guatemala in violation of Guatemalan law and brought into the United States in violation of U.S. customs laws and regulations. Specifically, the objects had been removed in violation of a bilateral agreement coordinated by the U.S. State Department, enacted in 1997, between the United States and Guatemala prohibiting the importation of pre-Columbian artifacts into the United States without proper export documents. HSI special agents seized the objects on June 16, 2011