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Sotheby's auctions off priceless Peruvian artifact
The Sicán mask displayed on Sotheby's website
By Nick Rosen
May 16, 2012
A priceless piece of Peru’s cultural heritage was put up for sale last week at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York, where it fetched $212,500.
The object in question was a gold Sicán funeral mask, dating from somewhere between 950 and 1250 A.D., with its origins in the Pomac Forest region of Lambayeque.
According to Sotheby’s, the mask came from the estate of Jan Mitchell. A 2009 New York Times obituary stats that Mitchell was a wealthy New York restaurateur who donated a large portion of his pre-Columbian gold collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
According to the Sotheby’s catalogue, the mask was acquired over 40 years ago. Carlos Elera, director of the Sicán Museum, told Peru.21, “The mask was looted by grave robbers from the area over 40 years ago. They must investigate how it left the country.” Peruvian law bans the exportation of ancient artifacts from the country.
Sotheby’s did not list the purchaser of the Sicán mask. Elera said he would push the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand the artifact’s repatriation.
Carlos Wester, an archaeologist, told Peru.21 that, “For Lambayeque, [the mask] is part of our culture, and it should be displayed in the museums of the region.”
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Total coments: 9
Commented By: eevansaz
On: May 16, 2012. 4:37 pm
Yes the mask should return home to Peru. And Europe should return the foreign treasures in their museums back to the countries they looted.
Commented By: Hipolito
On: May 16, 2012. 7:37 pm
I totally support returning the mask. The theft is too recent to be considered history. Laws were in place when it was stolen. 40 years is not an unreasonable time frame, whereas 100 years or more may be.
Commented By: Autumn Leaf
On: May 17, 2012. 6:40 pm
Not all artifacts and treasures were stolen. Mostly the were "traded" by Merchants, trading vessels traveling throughout the Mediterranean for thousands of years . Great gifts were given to Kings and Churches, and Kings and Church gave gifts in return. I do not condone the Black Market, however, I do not insist that an artifact be returned to it's origins simply because of it's origin.
Commented By: kosacr
On: May 18, 2012. 7:04 am
National treasures should not be in private hands unless on permanent loan to great museums!
Commented By: autobaton
On: May 18, 2012. 10:06 am
it does not look like a national treasure, more like someone's own peice of treasure
Commented By: whodoer9999
On: May 24, 2012. 11:55 pm
This mask belongs to the people of Peru. 40 years is not that long in the world of stolen treasure.
Commented By: Julian Alien
On: June 2, 2012. 10:03 pm
I disagree.If it were not for this person of refined tastes this mask would have been beaten into a dirt filled lump.Everyone who has commented on this site is a lowly primate not fit for clothes they wear.
Commented By: cristiam bravo
On: February 9, 2013. 5:14 am
That happened mainly because of the disinterest of the authorities of that time, at least now there is more interest for ours which is very well (intermediate 3 , saturday morning- teacher luis cardoza)
Commented By: RedBaron
On: December 27, 2012. 9:10 pm
Before the lowly primate existed Julian Alien, never needed clothes...
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