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Auction of ancient Mesoamerican artifacts in Paris outrages Mexicans

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Photograph of one of the artifacts up for auction, an ancient sculpture of a bicephalous (two-headed) jaguar. Photo: Société Baecque et Associés

Controversy grows as two auction houses in Paris prepare to sell 50 pieces of Mesoamerican art.

The auctions include artifacts belonging to several ancient civilizations, including the Maya and Teotihuacan cultures. 

Mexico’s federal government has issued several complaints requesting that the auctions be halted, but these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. 

Mexicans opposed to the sale of the artifacts are also making their voices heard on social media by using the hashtag #MiPatrinominoNoSeVende — which translates as my heritage is not for sale.

“We are once again expressing our outrage at the sale of these artifacts. These pieces were taken out of Mexico illegally and their sale is an afront to dozens of cultures which have been systematically pillaged over centuries,” noted Mexican author and researcher Beatriz Gutiérrez Mueller wrote on Facebook.

The auction of Mexican antiquities has become fairly common in several countries around the world including The United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. 

Earlier: Looters target Yucatán cenotes in hopes of finding ancient treasure

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.

Ceramic vessel for sale during the coming auction conducted by De Baecque et Associés in Paris. Photo: Photo: Société Baecque et Associés

The bulk of the artifacts in question are reported to have belonged to a privately owned collection in New York made up of artifacts expatriated from Mexico in 1989. 

However, artifacts extracted from the country before 1934 remain in a legal gray area as at that time no law banning the practice was in effect. 

Nonetheless, the auction houses involved in the upcoming sales argue that they are breaking no laws.

Some of the most notable items up for auction include a sculpture of a two-headed jaguar, a sculpture extracted from the Island of Jaina in Campeche, and a ceramic vase depicting scenes from the Poc ta Poc Mesoamerican ballgame.

Several of the pieces in the collection are expected to reach prices in the tens of thousands of euros. 

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