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INAH continues with legal battle over recently auctioned Mayan pieces at Sotherby’s New York

Mexico City, Mexico — The Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) report that they have filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office in relation to the auction of pre-historic pieces May 18 in New York.

The May 18th auction was held at Sotheby’s New York and, according to the INAH, included 26 pieces that were considered archaeological monuments. The Institute explained that because it is an ongoing investigation, they are prevented from offering more information, however, they said that they will continue working to prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property in addition to recovering the Mexican heritage.

On May 18th, the auction house offered 121 lots, of which 26 were related to the Mayan and Olmec cultures. One of the pieces advertised on Sotheby’s website was an Olmec serpentine head from the middle pre-classic period (900 – 300 BC), which has a starting price of $5,500 USD.

Lot 97 of the auction was a Mayan stone effigy Late Classic Ax (550 – 950 AD) owned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which has a starting price of $50,000 USD. Another piece, a Mayan Orangeware vessel of an aquatic bird from the Early Classic period (250 – 450 AD) owned by a private European collection, started bidding at $40,000 USD.

The Ministry of Culture explained that it requested diplomatic and legal assistance on these events from the Legal Consultancy of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the General Directorate of International Police Affairs and Interpol of the Federal Ministerial Police.