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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Peru museum's 'fake' gold
Mummy
The museum also houses mummies and funeral masks
A large part of a Peruvian 20,000-piece collection of gold is fake, according to the country's consumer protection agency.

The Consumer Defence Institute has examined 4,257 artefacts from the Peruvian Museum of Gold and concluded they were "false without a shadow of a doubt".

The commission's research is supported by archaeologists at the Catholic University of Lima, who have also questioned 92 other objects.

But a congressman chairing a parliamentary commission charged with investigating the problem at the museum has hinted that a mafia organisation could be behind it.

The investigation was started following a complaint from a visitor about the authenticity of the collection.


Original artefacts could have been substituted with fake items

Congressman Luis Iberico

The museum has been forced to display notices in Spanish and English informing visitors that funeral masks, statuettes and other gold pieces could no longer authentically be presented as predating the Inca Empire.

The Gold Museum in Lima, which also houses jewels, ceramics, mummies and textiles was created by philanthropist Miguel Mujica Gallo, who died recently at the age of 91.

A statement released by the foundation set up in his name said the questionable pieces are being removed for careful evaluation.

Mafia

It admitted that Mr Mujica Gallo had been suffering from deteriorating eyesight but had continued to acquire artefacts with his own money.

His primary aim was to salvage Peru's national patrimony, said the statement.

Luis Iberico, of the Independent Front of Morality party, said the discovery of false items could be rooted in the illegal trafficking of Inca and colonial artefacts.

Substitute

He told the Agence France Presse news agency: "Peruvians and foreign visitors have been defrauded.

"But the case of the Museum of Gold could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"Allegations that there could be illicit trafficking in archaeological finds are frequent."

The politician has several theories on why the objects at the museum are false.

He continued: "One of them is that original artefacts could have been substituted with fake items.

"That could have happened when the collection travelled abroad."

The National Institute of Culture is also preparing to examine the remaining collection.

See also:

06 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Peru
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