Monday, July 7, 2008

Pre-Columbian Textiles Being Sold in Peru

From the International Herald Tribune This is just the most amazing story to me - I don't understand, how can people sell their priceless heritage so cheaply? How can they sell it at all? Peru officials find pre-Hispanic textiles on sale in Lima tourist market July 5, 2008 LIMA, Peru: Shoppers at a tourist market in Peru's capital could have netted greater bargains than they thought — rare, pre-Hispanic textiles costing little more than a Machu Picchu magnet. Police and archaeologists raiding the block-long, outdoor Indian Market June 27 found swatches of centuries-old cloth — mainly from the Chancay culture — nestled among itchy llama sweaters and other mass-produced Peruvian handicrafts. The textiles, likely scraps from looted archaeological sites, were pasted atop decorative boxes and sewn into dolls that sold for as little as US$6.50, said Blanca Alva, chief of the Historic Patrimony Defense Department for the government's National Cultural Institute. Some dated as far back as the 13th century. Alva didn't say why the material sold so cheaply, but she said the vendors knew exactly what they were selling. Some of the boxes decorated with ancient textiles sold for $50. "We saw with our own eyes a saleswoman hiding a box with swatches of the textiles in another stand, trying to get rid of the evidence," Alva said. According to Peruvian law, the destruction, alteration or sale of pre-Hispanic cultural artifacts can carry a prison sentence of three to eight years. Peru's famed pre-Inca art is featured around the world, especially the colorful weavings of ancient civilizations that thrived along the Andean nation's coast. But Peruvian officials are trying to crackdown on "huaqueros," or looters, who illegally traffic the artifacts, Alva said. The government has seized about 620 objects made with ancient textiles in three raids, one of them in the Duty Free shop of Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport.

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