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ICE returns thousands of years old artifacts to Mexico

Ancient "cultural property" returned to Mexican Institute for Anthropology and History
Posted at 6:40 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 16:04:48-05

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — These artifacts are called 'Pre-Columbian.'

What that really means is they are very old, some of them a thousand years, others five thousand years old.

Some of these treasures from antiquity were found by staff at a museum in Chandler.

"When they came across the artifacts, which had been in storage."

'ICE' agent Scott Brown, who ran the investigations that discovered these items, said the museum's staff contacted his agency.

"It immediately sparked a 'hey! This looks like something we may not have; it may be culturally protected property."

Brown said some of the other items were found with someone trying to cross into the states at the border.

"The Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry saw a significant number of pieces in his car, again, immediately recognized them as a potential cultural property."

Since 1970, the United Nations has protected that so-called cultural property.

By international law, when discovered, items should be returned to their home country.

In this case, Brown said archeologists helped Customs agents determine they belonged in Mexico.

A ceremony was held in Nogales, Sonora to mark their return, all totaled 277 items were given to the Mexican Institute for Anthropology and History.

Brown said if these items aren't being smuggled illegally, they usually wind up with unwitting people.

"Usually around trade shows, around people that do collect historical artifacts."

'ICE' said the value of these items range between $26,000 to $45,000.