Mexico wins removal of pre-Hispanic artifact from sale in Vienna

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Mexico has successfully removed a pre-Hispanic artifact from a planned auction in Vienna, part of the government’s largely unsuccessful campaign to secure the return of archaeological treasures

On Thursday, the Setdart Gallery in Barcelona, ​​Spain, apparently auctioned off 35 colonial-era Mexican artifacts, and the Carlo Bonte Auctions in Bruges, Belgium, are expected to feature three Mexican artifacts soon. The Ader auction house in Paris is due to sell 74 archaeological objects, including ceramics and sculptures, on March 18.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched a campaign to try to stop these sales and called on other governments to return coins from the Aztec, Maya, Olmec and other cultures.

So the government proudly announced on Thursday that Vienna’s Galerie Zacke had agreed to remove from an auction on Friday a carved stone yoke, or necklace, from a Gulf Coast culture. The piece was produced between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago and the ceremonial U-shaped necklace is similar to the pieces carved by the Olmecs.

The government also said Zacke had agreed to contact the owner to see if he could send him back to Mexico, “in a gesture of empathy and corporate responsibility.”

Austria has already drawn the ire of López Obrador, for refusing to return a headdress that once belonged to one of the last Aztec emperors. The semicircle of green feathers of the Quetzal bird and other species is more than a meter wide and is currently in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna.

Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, gave the feathered headdress as a gift to the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes in 1519, although Mexican officials admit that Montezuma probably never wore it personally.

Mexico has been particularly upset by antique auctions in France, a country that has been reluctant to stop such sales.

In February, López Obrador complained that French auction houses had gone so far as to send the Mexican archaeological institute photos of relics, asking if they were genuine so they could sell them for more.

López Obrador said he ordered the government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, known by its Spanish initials as INAH, to stop responding to such requests.

“They, the organizations that sell these pieces at auction, are so brazen that they ask INAH for information. They send photos so that INAH can tell them if they are authentic or fake,” López Obrador said.

The president also lashed out at the French government for failing to intervene in a series of such auctions in recent years. López Obrador said the French should be more like the Italian government, which has made a point of identifying and returning ancient artifacts.

“It is very regrettable that the French government has not adopted legislation on this subject, as has been the case in Italy,” said López Obrador.

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