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US returns looted fragment of Mayan stela to Mexico

The National Museum of Anthropology received from the United States a fragment of Stela 2 from the Mayan site La Mar, in Chiapas, which corresponds to the upper right corner of the stela and its approximate measurements are 45 cm wide by 74 cm long, and 7 cm thick.

US returns looted fragment of Mayan stela to Mexico
Credit: INAH
The repatriated part of the Late Classic period (800-850 AD) lost its original thickness since it was cut to subtract and move the piece out of Mexico. According to authorities at Yale University, since 1966 the piece was in the possession of a US citizen, religious missionary and amateur collector based in Indiana, who gave it to the university to be returned to Mexico.

Between 1895 and 1900, Teobert Maler mapped, photographed and described a significant number of ancient Mayan settlements distributed on the west bank of the Usumacinta. This registration made by the Austrian-German expeditionary has allowed the United States to return a fragment of Stela 2 from the La Mar archaeological site in Chiapas, from which it was stolen decades ago.

The act of delivery-reception of this cultural property, now under the custody of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), took place at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), in Mexico City.

US returns looted fragment of Mayan stela to Mexico
Credit: INAH
Archaeologist Alejandro Bautista explained that it was in October 2018 when the Institute for the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of Yale University informed the Consulate General of Mexico in New York, its desire to return to Mexico an archaeological asset identified in that institute as a fragment of Stela 2 of La Mar.

Bautista noted that the work was published by Teobert Maler in "Investigations in the central portion of the Usumatsíntla Valley" (sic). In a photograph captured by the explorer in 1900, the monument is fragmented into five parts, and together they appear five Mayan characters of high rank and a series of hieroglyphic cartridges.

The archeologist Omar Silis, of the Direction of Public Registry of Monuments and Archaeological Zones of the INAH, described that in the scene visible in the fragment, the upper part of the portrait of a possible ruler appears, which wears a headdress, as well as ornaments such as earmuffs, breastplate, bracelets and necklaces.

US returns looted fragment of Mayan stela to Mexico
Credit: INAH
Both experts agreed that the geopolitical importance of La Mar is revealed by the central square, the twin buildings, the ball game and at least three stelae described by Maler in which scenes of La Mar's interaction with other centers were captured. regional offices such as Palenque and Piedras Negras.

Alejandro Bautista pointed out that Stela 1 of La Mar is located in the Regional Museum of Chiapas, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez; so it would be appropriate that the fragment of Stela 2 also be exhibited in that space, after conservation tasks in the National Museum of Anthropology, where it was received by its director, the historian Antonio Saborit, and after its registration in the Registry Public as a good that is part of the collections in INAH custody.

Source: Mexicanist [April 19, 2019]


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