Sotheby’s auctions off priceless Peruvian artifact

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A priceless piece of Peru’s cultural heritage was put up for sale last week at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York, where it fetched $212,500. 

The Sicán mask displayed on Sotheby’s website [Credit: Peru This Week]

The object in question was a gold Sicán funeral mask, dating from somewhere between 950 and 1250 A.D., with its origins in the Pomac Forest region of Lambayeque. 

According to Sotheby’s, the mask came from the estate of Jan Mitchell. A 2009 New York Times obituary stats that Mitchell was a wealthy New York restaurateur who donated a large portion of his pre-Columbian gold collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

According to the Sotheby’s catalogue, the mask was acquired over 40 years ago. Carlos Elera, director of the Sicán Museum, told Peru.21, “The mask was looted by grave robbers from the area over 40 years ago. They must investigate how it left the country.” Peruvian law bans the exportation of ancient artifacts from the country. 

Sotheby’s did not list the purchaser of the Sicán mask. Elera said he would push the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand the artifact’s repatriation. 

Carlos Wester, an archaeologist, told Peru.21 that, “For Lambayeque, [the mask] is part of our culture, and it should be displayed in the museums of the region.” 

Author: Nick Rosen | Source: Peru This Week [May 16, 2012]

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