Guatemala asks France to ban treasure auction

Guatemala asks France to ban treasure auction
File photo of Mayan artefacts found in Mexico. Photo: Moyses Zuniga/AFP
Guatemala has made claims to 13 archaeological treasures set to go under the hammer at a Sotheby's auction house sale in Paris next week. Authorities in the Central American republic have asked French counterparts to halt the auction.

Sotheby's is planning to sell on March 22nd and 23rd items that once belonged to the now shuttered Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, including over 300 archeological pieces from Mexico and Central and South America.

Guatemalan law "prohibits the sale and export of all articles that make up our cultural heritage, such as archaeological pieces," the Guatemalan Culture Ministry said in a statement.

It did not indicate which particular artefacts were in question, among the figurines, jewellery, masks, vessels and furniture being sold for an estimated €1,000 to €3 million ($1,300 to $3.9 million).

Stressing that even the museum described the items as emanating from Guatemalan Mayan culture, the Culture Ministry insisted that the pieces were "the unique, exclusive and legitimate property of the state of Guatemala."

Authorities in the Central American nation expect their colleagues in France to "intervene and enforce the requests made by the parties involved in Latin American countries," the statement added.

"You cannot allow private collectors to unlawfully enrich themselves at the expense of the Americas' pre-Hispanic cultural heritage."

The catalogue of the collection to be sold at the Sotheby's auction can be viewed here.

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