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Friday, October 26
by Jessica E. Saraceni
October 26, 2012

A 2,300-year-old tomb in western Guatemala is being called the grave of “the ruler who bridged the gaps between Olmec and Mayan cultures and initiated the slow transition to Mayan rule,” according to archaeologist Miguel Orrego. Although his remains have disintegrated, the man known as K’utz Chman was buried with a jade pendant carved in the shape of a vulture’s head, a symbol of power and wealth. It is thought that K’utz Chman introduced pyramid building and the carving of sculptures of the royal family to his people. “The richness of the artifacts tells us he was an important and powerful religious leader,” added archaeologist Christa Schieber.

Since the fall of communism in Bulgaria, squads of looters  equipped with metal detectors, bulldozers, tractors, and heavy vehicles have been destroying archaeological sites that could be excavated and developed to bring tourist money into the country. In particular, the Roman city of Ratiaria is located next to one of the poorest villages in Europe. “Such a site could have been North West Bulgaria’s ‘Pompeii,’ bringing wealth to a poor region in need of such tourism. Without quick efficient action this opportunity may sadly be missed,” said Jamie Burrows of Nottingham University. Such Roman artifacts, coins, and gold and silver from Thracian tombs are highly prized. They are smuggled out of the country by organized crime groups to be sold abroad.

Yesterday, American customs officials returned more than 4,000 artifacts to Mexico that had been seized in raids in several states, after a total of 11 separate investigations. The artifacts had all been looted and smuggled out of Mexico. Pots, statues, hatchets and other tools, sandals, beads, and an Aztec whistle were among the artifacts recovered. “The teamwork and cooperation that exists between Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and our Mexican law enforcement counterparts, as well as with U.S. federal, local and state law enforcement agencies made it possible for us to secure these cultural artifacts and to ensure that they are returned to the government of Mexico. HSI will remain committed to combating the looting and trafficking of Mexico’s cultural treasures,” said Janice Ayala, HSI assistant director.

In southern Iraq, police arrested two people accused of smuggling artifacts and recovered a collection of ancient statues and coins that span several time periods. “Interior Ministry forces in coordination with the Iraqi army seized 64 archaeological pieces as well as 114 bronze coins  in a district of al-Fajir,” a police source revealed.

A torso fashioned from pottery  has been found in Spain’s Can Sadurní cave. The figurine, which retains its neck and part of an arm, has been dated to 6,500 years ago, making it the oldest found on the Iberian Peninsula. Archaeologists think the figurine depicts a male person, and it may have hung from a strap. More fragments of the figurine may be uncovered. The cave is also known for evidence of the production and consumption of beer during the Neolithic period.

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