Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History recovered eight pre-hispanic artifacts which were being sold online.
The artifacts were confiscated by Yucatán state police and are being cataloged by INAH specialists.
The seized collection is made up of seven ceramic vessels and a jade necklace all dating to the late classical period in the seventh century.
“From their characteristics, we can discern that the artifacts were likely excavated in the regions of Muna, Chablekal, and Chixulub,” archaeologist Isabel Ancona Aragón said in a press statement.
The recovered objects present features consistent with pottery produced for mortuary practices in northern Yucatán. They were likely placed in burials and then excavated centuries later illegally.
The identity of the whoever was responsible for the illegal sale has not been released.
Selling archaeological artifacts is illegal in Mexico and can carry fines upwards of 200,000 pesos and 10 years in prison. Removing pre-hispanic artifacts from Mexico is considered a serious federal crime.
Despite this fact, even a cursory search will reveal several online sales and auctions taking place in Mexico on platforms such as Mercado Libre.
In Yucatán, it is not uncommon for families to pass down archaeological artifacts as heirlooms.
To legally hold possession of pre-hispanic artifacts in Mexico, the items must be reported to the government — but not many people bother doing so.
The legal antiquities trade has been much more careful in recent years about establishing the provenance and legal status of cultural artifacts. Some estimates put annual turnover in billions of U.S. dollars