Private Collector Returns Mayan Artifact to Guatemala

A private collector has voluntarily handed over a Mayan artifact to Guatemala after it disappeared in the 1960s and reappeared at a 2019 Paris auction.

Private collector Manichak Aurance returned a fragment of a Mayan stela to Guatemala during a ceremony hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Oct. 25 in Paris.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that the voluntary handover “showcases the evolution of the international environment in favor of the return of emblematic cultural objects and artifacts to their homelands.”

“This success story has been possible thanks to international cooperation and a private collector’s goodwill; it is a model for others to follow,” Azoulay further said.

The fragment will soon be sent to the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City for public display, UNESCO said.

During the civil war in Guatemala in the 1960s, the fragment disappeared and resurfaced at an auction in Paris in 2019, which was suspended and followed by negotiations with Aurance, the French and Guatemalan governments, and UNESCO.

According to UNESCO, the artifact “shows the top part of the sumptuous headdress of an ancient ruler of Piedras Negras, who acceded to the throne in the year 729 AD.”

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