Ancient Maya treasures are to be returned to Mexico and Guatemala after they were found hidden in the cellar of a farmhouse in Germany.
Fifteen hundred-year-old clay sculptures, dishes, and cups believed to be worth more than €100,000 ($120,000 USD) were found at the private home in Klötze, a village in the eastern region of Saxony-Anhalt.
Police searched the cellar after a former owner confessed he had hidden unlicensed guns there.
But officers were stunned when they unearthed a black plastic bag containing the Mayan artefacts.
Independent experts commissioned by the regional authorities say the artworks are genuine.
The 13 items include two delicate miniature figures which are believed to be from the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacán and date back to between 250 and 250AD.
One of the figures is a candle-holder and is believed to depict the ancient Mayan god of fire.
The other items are believed to come from northern Guatemala and include decorated cups and dishes, and shards of broken glass vessels
Experts say they were probably illegally excavated and sold on the black market, and they are to be returned to the governments of Mexico and Guatemala as the rightful owners.
“I will return them to the ambassadors on May 20,” Reiner Haseloff, the regional prime minister of Saxony-Anhalt told Bild newspaper.
The existence of the artefacts was only uncovered after the former owner of the farmhouse contacted police to confess to a crime.
The 66-year-old, who has lived in France for many years, telephoned local police to admit he had hidden his grandfather’s unlicensed Second World War rifle and pistol in the cellar.
He told police he bought the Mayan artworks at a flea market and had no idea of their provenance.
Police say he will not face prosecution as Germany had no law against buying illegally excavated artworks from abroad at the time he obtained them.
He will also escape prosecution over the firearms as the statute of limitations has expired.
Source: Telegraph UK
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