A tiny work of art of huge importance

16.07.2018 - Article

An ancient clay head goes home to Mexico.

Ambassador Granguillhome
Ambassador Granguillhome and Elisabeth Wolbers are delighted to see the ancient clay head going home to Mexico© Federal Foreign Office Press Division

At the Federal Foreign Office, the Head of Division for the Repatriation of Cultural Property, Elisabeth Wolbers, today presented a Mexican clay head from Teotihuacán which arrived in Germany illegally in 2017 to Mexican Ambassador Rogelio Granguillhome. A young German had acquired the object on eBay in the US and had it sent to Germany. German customs officials noticed it on its arrival in Germany and initially seized it.

Federal Foreign Office as mediator

Thanks to Federal Foreign Office mediation, the buyer, who had purchased the work of art in good faith, was persuaded to return it. The customs authorities and police passed the clay head to the competent State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology, which then handed it over to the Federal Foreign Office. The return of this object, some 1500 years old, to Mexico today underscores the commitment of the Federal Republic of Germany and of the Federal Foreign Office to protecting cultural property from illegal trade and destruction. Illegal trade in cultural property is threatening humanity’s cultural heritage. It is the third-largest form of international organised crime after arms and drug dealing.

Instrument against illegal trade in cultural property

This work of art from Teotihuacán is approx. 1500 years old
This work of art from Teotihuacán is approx. 1500 years old© Federal Foreign Office Press Division

The key international instrument in the fight against illegal trade in cultural property is the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transport of Ownership of Cultural Property of 14 November 1970. Germany acceded to the Convention in 2007. It is implemented in Germany with the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property. Under the Act, the Federal Foreign Office is the first point of contact and mediator in cases where it is suspected that cultural property has been brought to Germany illegally from countries outside the European Union.



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