On Wednesday, Mexico revealed that it had received 34 pre-Columbian artifacts that were owned by two German citizens. The two citizens, who were not identified but who live in western Germany, contacted the Mexican Embassy in Germany about returning the objects that had been owned by their families. The objects were handed over to the embassy in May.
Over the past few years, conversations around repatriation in Germany have reached a fever pitch. Though those discussions have largely focused on returning objects to Africa, they also spurred people in the country to begin sending back artifacts to other parts of the world.
The objects returned last month come from a vast spread of ancient cultures that once inhabited the lands of present-day Mexico, including ones based along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the Central Highlands, Colima and southern Nayarit, and Mayan lands. Among the objects that were returned are bowls, vases, stamps, and various anthropomorphic sculptures. Those sculptures include a mask in metamorphic rock that most likely comes from the Olmec culture and dates to Mesoamerica’s Preclassic Period (1200–600 B.C.E.) and two heads done in the Totonac style, dating to the Classic period (250–900 C.E.).
During the ceremony announcing the objects’ return, Mexico’s Secretary of Culture Alejandra Frausto Guerrero said, “The brother peoples of Germany and Mexico today give an example that cultural heritage unites us, that respectful dialogue between nations, based on their culture, builds different maps that were normally seen only from a dominant culture toward an ‘other’ [culture].”
Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, added, “It is encouraging and is also the result of the work that has been done by various countries, intellectuals and thinkers, who have insisted on this issue.”