The Embassy of Mexico in Austria recovered an archaeological piece that was in the hands of an anonymous collector.

The sculpture, in the Maya-Chenes style, was returned through the intermediation of Professor Karl-Herbert Mayer, a well-known Austrian Mesoamericanist. It is a column fragment of approximately 26 kilos, which was extracted from the archaeological site of Santa Rosa Xtampak (“old walls”, in Mayan), Campeche.

This return constitutes an example of the importance of raising awareness for the voluntary restitution to Mexico of heritage assets that are outside the national territory and that were extracted from the country without the knowledge of the Mexican authorities, the Secretaries of Culture and Of Foreign Affairs.

The intermediary Karl-Herbert Mayer and the Ambassador of Mexico in Austria, Luis Javier Campuzano Piña.

According to archaeologist Adriana Velázquez Morlet, INAH delegate in Campeche, consulted by The Economistthe piece, whose date corresponds to the Mayan Late Classic period (between the years 600 and 800 of our era), could have been looted between 1940 and 1960.

It adds that the architectural fragment presents a relief with the image of a jaguar from the underworld – a supernatural character with whom the Mayans represented the nocturnal Sun – and was part of the decoration of El Palacio, the main building of the Santa Rosa Xtampak site, considered the most important of the Chenes tradition, and where a long period of occupation by the Mayan civilization has been proven, says the archaeologist.

Velázquez Morlet shares that it was thanks to the images captured by the anthropologist and photographer Teoberto Maler, who first explored the Xtampak archaeological site in the 19th century, that it was possible to identify the piece that was delivered this Tuesday to the Mexican embassy in Austria. and determine what corresponds to the architecture of El Palacio.

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Maler, of Austro-German origin, made important contributions to the knowledge of the Mayan area. He learned the indigenous language and dedicated a good part of his life to the exploration and photographic record of the pre-Hispanic cities in Yucatán, Chiapas, Tabasco and the Guatemalan Petén.

Adriana Velázquez points out that the archaeological relevance of the repatriation of this fragment lies in the recovery of valuable iconographic information regarding the building of which it is a part and in the elements that it will contribute to learn more about its function.

The Secretary of Foreign Relations works on the logistical details in order to move the piece to national territory and deliver it to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) for its registration, protection and conservation.

The Mexican authorities thanked the person who returned the piece, and invited private collectors abroad who currently have pieces that are part of Mexico’s heritage, as well as auction houses, to join in the protection and safeguarding of the cultural heritage, and to restore them for their study, conservation and dissemination.

The federal government has launched the campaign #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende, which has the objective of discouraging interest in buying and raising awareness that these types of archaeological pieces are not decorations or luxury items, but rather objects that are testimony to the identity and memory of the native peoples of Mexico, the authorities stated.

In the last three years, the Mexican government has managed to recover some 6,000 archaeological pieces that were illegally removed from the country during the first half of the 20th century.

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