Saving Antique Artifacts In Peru

World Today

There are few countries in the world with such a rich cultural heritage as Peru. But for centuries that past has been plundered and even in the present day its artifacts are trafficked on the black market. But, as CCTV’s Dan Collyns reports, Peru is getting better at protecting its past. 

Saving Antique Artifacts In Peru

Peru is known for its rich cultural heritage. For centuries, though, that heritage has been plundered, and some of the country's artifacts are now being sold on the black market. But, as CCTV's Dan Collyns reports, Peru is getting better at protecting its past.

Every day thousands of packages are flown out of Peru. All are scanned and some searched. Most customs officials are looking for drugs but this pair is searching for another type of contraband.

They’re not customs officers but work for Peru’s culture ministry. It’s their job to make sure Peru’s ancient riches don’t get taken out of the country.

So far this year they’ve made nearly 50 seizures of colonial art, Pre-Hispanic relics, and even fossils.

Meanwhile, at Lima’s international airport — their counterparts -an archaeologist and an art historian – are doing the same.

These experts are the last line of defense for Peru’s heritage checking souvenirs — bought by unsuspecting tourists — to historical artifacts being deliberately trafficked. Most of the time, what the tourists take home are totally legal.

And when the items do have cultural value – like these Chancay dolls stitched with fragments from ancient textiles – the tourists often realize they were breaking the law. They’re on the lookout for priceless religious art robbed from a colonial church. There’s a strong sense of national pride in this work.

Peru is also stepping up efforts to recover those items that made it out of the country. This priceless Moche headdress was retrieved from a private collection in London eight years ago. Along with this jewelry – also from the pre-Inca Moche culture – it will one day go on display to the Peruvian public in a Peruvian museum.