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Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 03:43 GMT
Chile probes Easter Island artefacts
Easter Island statues
Easter Island's statues are shrouded in mystery

The Chilean Government has launched an investigation after it discovered that a Miami art gallery is selling a collection of Easter Island artefacts which it claims are up to 1,000 years old.

Easter Island is world famous for its giant stone statues that are considered archaeological treasures.

The Chilean authorities were shocked when they found that two statue heads, both standing more than one metre high, were on sale in a Miami art gallery.

The Chilean Committee of National Monuments said they had not given permission for the pieces - which are on display with 12 other artefacts - to leave the country, much less be sold.

A government archaeologist told the BBC that the artefacts had either left the country illegally or were fakes.

A modern-day carver from the island made giant replicas in the late 1980s.

High price

But according to the gallery website, one carved head is 1,000 years old and the other 700.

There has been speculation that they could sell for $600,000 each.

A spokesman for the gallery said they would co-operate with any investigation and admitted there had been no carbon dating of the collection.

Chilean officials plan to travel to Miami to inspect the artefacts.

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18 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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