According to Egypt´s Ahram Online magazine, last week that country’s Ministry of State for Antiquities received five Ecuadorian and Peruvian artifacts confiscated from Cairo International Airport.
The artifacts include three Ecuadorian heads carved in black wood that date back to 800 BC, and two Peruvian statues that date back to 250 BC.
Official Ahmed El-Rawi told the Egyptian news source that the statues were confiscated in March when the police at the airport caught an Egyptian citizen trying to illegally smuggle the objects to Alexandria. The objects had been smuggled to Egypt from the United States in a wooden box.
The objects are now at the Egyptian museum in central Cairo, and will be handed over to the Ecuadorian and Peruvian embassies this week.
According to the New York Times, smuggling historic items is a thriving business as collectors from around the world will pay large sums of money to own a piece of history.
Last year, a team of investigators from Peru’s Ministry of Culture, working out of the post office in Lima in an effort to prevent items from being spirited out if the country, made 22 seizures, totaling dozens of items.
They included pre-Columbian textiles and pottery, fossils, a 19th-century saber, a 19th-century oil painting of St. Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read, a shipment of 56 books and other texts belonging to the National Library, and a group of religious and legal documents from the 18th century.
This year, they have made seven seizures of items that include old coins and replicas of pre-Columbian dolls that incorporate ancient cloth looted from archaeological sites.
“No matter how small a piece is, it’s important,” said Gladiz Collatupa, an archaeologist and art historian, who works for the Ministry of Culture told the NYT. “They are part of our identity.”