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Stolen Maya Artifact Returned to Belize

Looting and plunder of Mayan Temples across Belize and the world has been happening for decades if not centuries, how much has been stolen from Belize is something we will never know. But there is good news as a stolen item has been recovered and return to Belize, a ceramic bowl.

According to Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the Institute of Archeology, a polychrome bowl which dates to the early classic period between 400 to 600 A.D. was confiscated by the US Immigration and Customs departments and repatriated to Belize.

The bowl was confiscated from the male individual in the State of New Mexico and US agencies contacted an archaeologist at the University of New Mexico who also happened to be a colleague of Dr. Awe and works at the Ush Ben Kai site in the Toledo District. The professor, Dr. Keith Prufer identified the vessel as being an authentic Maya artifact.

Dr. Awe stated that based on the style of the vessel they believe it was being produced around the early classic period anywhere between Lamanai and Blue Creek in Northern Belize. He also mentioned that these types of artifacts have been found in both burials or special offering sites. Various archaeologists have argued that these vessels were used for feasting events, when a ruler wanted to throw an event, and invited representatives from other neighboring sites, that they would be served tamales, fruit, and other materials in these fancy vessels.

“I think that all these vessels are very important,” stated Dr. Awe to Belize City media. “These are part of the Belizean past, and I think that, for us, the fact that we can bring this back home is of very significant importance.”

The bowl was returned under the “Hold Harmless Release Agreement” between the United States and Belize. This agreement allows countries to collaborate in matters regarding the protection of cultural property, especially those that are stolen.

The bowl was handed over to the Belize Embassy in Washington D.C. and returned to Belize by the president of NICH Diane Haylock. The vessel is now safely stored in the national collection at the Institute of Archaeology in Belmopan.

The National Institute of Culture and History reminds Belizeans and visitors that it is illegal to buy or sell Maya artifacts in Belize and that all artifacts found should be reported to the Institute of Archaeology. All artifacts found are the property of the Government of Belize.

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