Saturday, February 28, 2009

INAH to Keep Codex Stolen from French National Library

Update on 1982 theft of 18-page Aztec codex (known as Tonalamatl Aubin) from the French National Library in Paris.

According to El Heraldo de Mexico (January 12, 2009), INAH re-affirms that it will not return the stolen codex to France's National Library.

The French National Library owned the codex for 150 years before being stolen by a Mexican journalist in 1982. The journalist, José Luis Castañeda del Valle, took the codex to Mexico, where he donated it to INAH, the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The French Embassy formally requested the return of the codex soon after the theft in 1982. INAH and the Mexican government refused to return the codex on the grounds that INAH was "all too happy to be pressured by public opinion to retain [the Codex]."

Now, more than 25 years after its return, the codex remains in Mexico, with INAH-MNA, the Mexican State Department (Relaciones Exteriores), and the Mexican government claiming that the codex was stolen from Mexico in the 19th Century and stating, therefore, that it would never be returned to France. INAH refuses to confirm whether the 1982 theft also included a Mayan codex.

Although France continues to officially press for the return of the codex, its low-key diplomatic protests over the decades suggest a deeper agreement, between the French National Library and INAH, that the codex belongs in the country of origin.

The theft from France to Mexico was last reported, briefly, in "Empty Museum Trophy Cases," Denver Journal of International Law and Policy (Winter 2007) Reppas, Michael J.

Before that, scholar Jeanette Greenfield was the sole source of information (and only worldwide English language reporting on the matter) when she wrote about the theft in “The return of cultural property”, published by the quarterly journal of archeology, Antiquities, Vol. 60, No. 228; 29–35 (March 1986)

INAH sources now confirm that INAH and the French National Library may work out a formal agreement creating a "permanent loan" of the codex from France to Mexico, with occasional joint exhibitions in European museums.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Honduras INAH Returned Treasures: anonymous Dutch donation

Treasure Returned to Honduras

December 18, 2008

Honduras News []

TEGUCIGALPA — The Honduran Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, received two jade- and iron pyrite-coated jaw bones of two members of the Maya elite that had been sent anonymously to the Honduran Embassy in the Netherlands.

The pieces were delivered Tuesday to IHAH manager Dario Euraque by Honduras’ deputy foreign relations secretary Eduardo Rosales.

Euraque told Efe in Tegucigalpa that the jaws were those of two different Mayan individuals who lived centuries ago in the Copan sector of western Honduras, according to studies by Dr. Raphael Panhuysen, an archaeology professor at the Netherlands’ Leiden University.

The pieces were delivered anonymously to the embassy of that Central American country in the Netherlands, perhaps by some collector who decided it was best that they be returned to their country of origin, he said.

Euraque and Rosales said there are no more details on how the remains arrived in that European country nor about the person who handed them over to the embassy this summer.

Some teeth of the two jaws are adorned with jade and iron pyrite encrustations, a technique only used to decorate the remains of the most powerful people in Classic Maya civilization, which flourished for more than 11 centuries before abruptly collapsing around 900 A.D.

After the bones were received at the embassy in the Netherlands, the government of that European country requested that they be examined at Leiden University to determine their origin and to document the dental adornment, the Honduran foreign relations secretariat said.

It added that the pieces were studied using strontium isotope analysis, which showed that the ratio of strontium in the tooth enamel was consistent with that found in the water of Honduras’ Copan River.

The tests determined that the individuals to whom the remains belonged were from an area of western Honduras now known as the Copan Ruins, the Central American country’s most important archaeological site.

article posted at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One of six "tumis", ceremonial knives, of pre-Inca Sican culture, from Canadian private collector to Peru. [2007 purchase and rendition funded by a gift from the Cavenham Foundation for the Returned Treasures Program]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Returned Treasures Program - Diego Rivera lithograph

This authenticated Diego Rivera lithograph [a limited series; signed and numbered] is part of the Returned Treasures Program of an INAH-MNA cultural trust (fideicomiso) that oversees the repatriation or rendition of important Latin American cultural property back to Mexico and other Latin American countries of origin.

[1989 donation to the Returned Treasures Program by Ernest M. Edsel and Malpaso Oil (corporate collection)]

Thursday, February 12, 2009