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Albuquerque Museum returns millennia-old antiques to Mexico

An Albuquerque Museum has returned a dozen relics to the local Mexican consulate. It found the historical objects in an old storage container.

The relics include Olmec greenstone sculptures and a figurine from Zacatecas. There are many clay sculptures too. The relics will also be housed at the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History. Experts from the institute say that the artifacts are from a time between 300 BCE and 600 BCE. They also estimate that it originates from western parts of Mexico.

The museum staff found the artifacts locked away in an old storage box for 15 years. The staff had opened the box a few months ago. The staff also got a hint at the value of their findings through a “pre-Columbian” label.

Andrew Rodgers, president of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation, sought to investigate the relics’ origins. His assistant found papers documenting the donation dated 2007. From there, they also located a New York-based woman. She had documents proving that she had sold the artifacts to the donor.

The woman stated that she had bought them from Mexican street vendors or dealers in New England.

This would be an unethical practice by modern standards. However, people didn’t have much idea about these issues a while ago. Rodgers also remarked, “Nobody had any mal intent. People didn’t have clarity or transparency about such a practice 30,40 or 50 years ago.”

He said he followed his conscience in returning the objects to Mexico. He also stated, “Heritage assets like these rightfully belong to Mexico. They’ll be taken utmost care of in their home country.” The Albuquerque Museum returned the relics in a repatriation ceremony held yesterday.

The Mexican consulate has welcomed this gesture. Norma Ang Sanchez has released a statement expressing her appreciation. She also said, “Mexico appreciates and recognizes Alburquerque returning archaeological pieces back to their native country. These relics are a part of collective history. They are also a matter of identity for native communities.”