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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 03:52 GMT 04:52 UK
US hands back artefacts to Peru
By Will Grant
BBC News, Miami

Pre-Columbian Peruvian artefacts
The items are thought to be worth millions of dollars
The US has handed over more than 400 Incan and pre-Columbian artefacts to the government of Peru.

The items, which are believed to be worth millions of dollars, had been stolen from several Andean nations.

They include a cape made from macaw and parrot feathers, gold and silver jewellery and a clay vessel believed to be more than 3,500 years old.

The artefacts had been stolen from South America by grave robbers and came into the US via the black market.

Accounting system

The Peruvian consul general in Miami, Jorge Roman, described some of the most important items.

"The pieces of greatest historical value were perhaps the two quipus.

"The ancient civilisations of Peru used these cords as an accounting system - to keep a record of the size of their harvests, of their potato crops, perhaps of the number of men and women in a town.

"But when the Spaniards arrived, they viewed it as a pagan system and most quipus were destroyed or burned. So, it's very rare to see them in a museum."

An Italian man was arrested two years ago for bringing the artefacts into the United States.

After serving 17 months in a federal prison, he is now due to be deported.

Mr Roman says that as well as returning the artefacts to their countries of origin, this move sends an important message to other tomb raiders and archaeological thieves that there is an international agreement in place to tackle their crimes.

Peru bans flights over Inca ruins
08 Sep 06 |  Americas
Ancient Peruvian artefacts seized
24 Sep 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
12 May 07 |  Country profiles

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