11 November 2020

Four pre-Columbian figurines were handed over to the Ambassador of Mexico, His Excellency Eduardo Peña Haller, in a handback ceremony held at the Embassy of Mexico today.

The objects date from the Mesoamerican Classic Period, from 800 BC to 500 AD. They were exported from Mexico in contravention of Mexico’s cultural property laws and intercepted by the Australian Border Force (ABF) upon entry into Australia. The ABF alerted the Office for the Arts, which undertook an investigation under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

After consultation with experts on pre-Columbian cultural property, the figurines were seized by an inspector from the Office for the Arts appointed under the Act.

The return is timely given the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the UNESCO Convention Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 on 14 November.

Mexico and Australia are signatories to this international treaty and will continue to work closely to provide protection to significant objects of cultural heritage.

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