Three significant objects, estimated to be over 500 years old, have been returned to the Government of Peru.

Two pre-Hispanic stone beads

On 20 April, three pre-Columbian objects belonging to the cultural heritage of Peru were returned to representatives of its government. The Ambassador of Peru, His Excellency Mr Vitaliano Gallardo Valencia and visiting Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Ignacio Higueras Hare accepted the objects at the event marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Peru and Australia.

The objects are two miniature stone beads and a Chimu wooden measuring rod. They belong to pre-Hispanic cultures and were used in ceremonies between the 7th and 16th centuries. One stone bead represents a dignitary of the Wari Empire which preceded the Inca Empire, and the other represents the head of a camelid, a sacred animal. As for the Chimu measuring rod, it was made to measure water in canals and other water sources used for crop irrigation. The decorative finial at the top represents a feline, an Amazonian animal linked to fertility and water, adding a symbolic charge to the agricultural activities and festivities in which the rod was used.

The objects had been unlawfully removed from Peru, sold online, and intercepted by Australian Border Force. The ABF alerted the Cultural Property Section of the Office of the Arts, which undertook an investigation and  consulted with the Government of Peru. The objects were seized and returned under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

The Australian and Peruvian Governments are both signatories to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property 1970, which provides for international cooperation to prevent and abate the trafficking of cultural material.  

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A Chimu wooden measuring rod with a decorative finial depicting a feline