Photo: Stolen Peruvian Treasures Returned
Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 14 stolen and looted cultural paintings and artifacts to the government of Peru at a repatriation ceremony at the Embassy of Peru in Washington, D.C.
The items were recovered in five separate investigations by special agents of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York; West Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware; and Austin and Houston, Texas.
Returned to the Peruvian people were nine religious paintings, a monstrance and four archaeological items that date back more than 2,000 years.
“The plundering of cultural property is one of the oldest forms of organized cross-border crime and has become a world-wide phenomenon that transcends frontiers,” said ICE Director John Morton.
The collection of items returned includes:
* Nine 18th century religious paintings from the Cusco region of Peru;
* A pre-Columbian Chimu-Inca double-chambered blackware vessel that whistles when it contains liquid;
* An ancient Andean textile that may have been used as a woman’s belt;
* A Spanish colonial silver gilt and enamel monstrance from the 1700s. This type of receptacle was and is still used in Roman Catholic and * Anglican churches to display the consecrated Eucharist;
* A ceramic jar from the Moche culture that portrays farmers and fishermen who lived on the river valleys and the arid coastal plain of northern Peru during 100 to 800 A.D.; and
* Peruvian bronze ceremonial blade, or tumi, used by the Inca and pre-Inca cultures in the Peruvian coastal region as a sacrificial ceremonial knife.
Of the objects returned, two of the Cusco oil paintings — Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and Virgin and Child — were sold at an auction house in Austin. Seven other Peruvian antique paintings were being sold from a Houston gallery. The pre-Columbian Chimu-Inca whistling pot and Andean textile were being sold on eBay.