Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Meso-American/South American Cache of Antiquities seized in Munich

News broke yesterday in Germany of a cache of antiquities from Central and South America seized by German authorities and through the efforts of Interpol. The large number of antiquities (cult objects, masks, etc.) were seized from a warehouse in Munich. The estimated market value of the recovered antiquities is approximately 100 million dollars. The cache is being claimed by a Costa Rican art collector. An audio interview (in German) with a police-reporter of the Federal Republic, hyperlinked to another version of the report here, gives us some more information: apparently the Costa Rican art collector also arranged for transport of the antiquities from the Americas to Germany via Spain. At present the reports are rather vague, but hopefully further coverage will reveal the details of this case. For example, was the cache meant for an auction or sale in Munich? Were other parties involved?

Often times we focus on the plunder of cultural objects from the classical world (at least in the blogs and academic journals I read most often, which are admittedly primarily devoted to that part of the world), but this event reminds that the plunder of cultural heritage is a global issue affecting everyone. There is also a thriving international demand for Pre-Columbian, Native American, and American historical artifacts as well, and the ethical concerns and "the material and intellectual consequences" are the same.



On Wednesday afternoon (in the U.S.), a
English notice
of the seizure was posted on the Museum Network Security List.