Germany to return Mayan ancient artifacts to Guatemala and Mexico | News | DW | 01.11.2021

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Germany to return Mayan ancient artifacts to Guatemala and Mexico

The historic objects were discovered last year in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The owner says he bought them at a flea market in Leipzig in 2003 not knowing where they came from.

Saxony-Anhalt State Premier Reiner Haseloff holds a Mayan figure in his gloved hand

Saxony-Anhalt State Premier Reiner Haseloff will hand over the ancient Mayan artefacts on Friday in Berlin

Reiner Haseloff, premier of the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, will hand over a number of important cultural artifacts to Guatemalan Ambassador Jorge Lemcke and Mexican Ambassador Francisco Quiroga at the state's offices in the capital Berlin on Friday.

Officials say the Mayan objects include figures, plates and cups dating back to between 250 and 850 AD.

Police discovered the objects in autumn 2020 while at the residence of a man in the city of Klötze. He had contacted them to arrange the handover of Second World War weapons that had belonged to his father.

A group of Mayan objects found in Saxony-Anhalt in fall 2020

The objects were produced well over 1,000 years ago in what are now Guatemala and Mexico

During the visit, the owner notified authorities about the pieces, which he said had been purchased for less than €100 ($116) at a flea market in Leipzig in 2003 — he claimed he had no idea where they had originally come from. Police suspect the items were stolen by tomb raiders.

State prosecutors from Saxony-Anhalt say the authenticity of the objects was confirmed by an expert who concluded that 11 of the pieces were produced in what is today Guatemala and two others were from Teotihuacan, located roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of modern-day Mexico City. The ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas.

The artifacts were originally scheduled to be handed over in May but the exchange had to be postponed for "diplomatic reasons."

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js/sms (dpa, edp, KNA)