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May 10, 2022

The U.S. Returns 22 Pieces of Pre-Columbian Ceramics Belonging to Bolivian Cultural Property


On Tuesday, May 10, the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia officially returned 22 pieces of pre-Columbian ceramics to the National Museum of Archeology. The pieces had been illegally extracted from Bolivia in the 1970s by a family of collectors. As a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the pieces were recovered after they were voluntarily handed over by the family.

Three women and two men watch ceramics on a table.
Minister of Cultures Sabina Orellana, representative for State’s Center for Cultural Heritage Dr. Allison Davis, and Cultural Affairs Officer Ilona Aleksandrova look at the ceramics returned to Bolivia under the Memorandum of Understanding.

Based on the Memorandum of Understanding for the Protection of Cultural Property signed by Bolivia and the United States in 2001, and the Bolivian legislation that protects cultural heritage, the ownership of the pieces and their return to Bolivia were determined.

After completing the formal process by which the United States government took legal possession of the artifacts, the items were declared cultural property of Bolivia and the U.S. Department of State made arrangements to transfer them back to their place of origin.

The archaeologist and representative of the State Department Cultural Heritage Center Allison Davis arrived in Bolivia for the delivery ceremony and highlighted the importance of returning cultural property to the countries from which they were stolen: “It is important to carry out investigations to return the items to their original communities for the sake of valuing cultural heritage,” she said.