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An ancient Peruvian treasure found in London

Above A PRICELESS ancient Peruvian headdress dating back to AD700 has been recovered after an international operation lured the looter to Britain. The Pre-Inca Mochica or Moche civilization flourished for about 1,000 years between 200BC and AD700 on the northern coast of Peru.


Treasured Found. Peru Gets Pre-Inca Gold Headdress Returned

Friday September 15, 2006 Source: Guardian Unlimited

LIMA, Peru (AP) - Peru celebrated the return Friday of a prized 1,300-year-old embossed gold headdress looted from an ancient tomb nearly 20 years ago. With a feline face at its center and eight curving tentacles, the artifact - which collectors say could be among Peru's most valuable treasures and worth close to $2 million - was recovered last month in a raid on a London lawyer's office.

The golden headdress was made in the image of an ancient sea god and dates back to around 700 A.D., making it a prized example of artwork by the Mochica civilization that inhabited northern Peru.

It was recovered last month by Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques squad after an undercover ``sting'' operation.

Flanked Friday by a heavily armed police detail, Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde delivered the headdress - looted in 1988 from a tomb in the Jequetepeque valley in northern Peru - to the nation's National Museum.

Looted Peru Moche Headdress Recovered in London
August 18, 2006. Source: National Geographic News

A Peruvian treasure lost for nearly 20 years has turned up in the offices of a London law firm, local police announced yesterday.

London's Metropolitan Police took possession of a pre-Inca headdress—estimated to be at least 1,300 years old—made by the Moche civilization of northern Peru. The object is due to be returned to Peruvian authorities.

The gold artifact, which bears the image of a feline sea god with octopuslike tentacles, had vanished from a royal tomb in Peru in the late 1980s. It was brought to the law firm by a client who says he did not know that it had been stolen.


Looted Peru treasure found in UK
August 17, 2006. Source: BBC News

An ancient Peruvian headdress which was looted from an archaeological site almost 20 years ago has been found by police in London.
It is considered a national treasure and disappeared in 1988 after a tomb in northern Peru was raided and its contents sold on the black market.

It was handed to a firm of solicitors in central London by one of its clients who did not know it was stolen.

The headdress, depicting a sea god, dates back to 700AD.

It is an example of ancient Peruvian Mochica civilization art and is regarded by experts as one of the most important artifacts in Peruvian cultural heritage.

Dr Walter Alva, director of the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Peru, described the seizure as "a very important moment in the worldwide war against illicit art and the looting of my country".

"We are speaking about an archaeological object [of] the utmost historical and aesthetic importance, which is one of the most important ornaments of the ancient Peruvian cultures," he added.

It was recovered by officers from Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Squad, who will now send it back to Peru.

No-one has been arrested and the investigation is now in the hands of the Peruvian authorities.

The investigation also drew on the expertise of Michel Van Rijn, an art dealer with extensive experience of hunting for illicit and stolen works of art.

He said: "It is impossible to put a price on a piece of history and world heritage such as this because they never come on the market, but should it do so, it could potentially reach in excess of 1m."

Headdress surfaces from dark trail of deals
August 19, 2006. Source nzherald.co.nz

PERU - A gold headdress, which has been described as "Peru's Mona Lisa", has been recovered by Scotland Yard. The headdress, which is almost 1m wide, depicts a sea god, portrayed as an octopus with a stylized human head. It is regarded by experts as one of the most important artifacts of Peruvian culture.

The piece disappeared in 1988 shortly after it was discovered in a tomb in northern Peru.

The headdress is believed to have ended up in the hands of Raul Apestiguia, a Peruvian dealer who was murdered in 1996 and his home ransacked. It next appeared on the black market for sale by a notorious Latin American dealer, along with another 41 stolen artefacts. A London-based dealer, Michel van Rijn, posted details of the headdress on his website with details of the alleged illegal trader. He was contacted by the dealer, who offered the headdress in return for taking his details off the website.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police's art and antiques squad struck after the trader handed the headdress to a lawyer in London for safe-keeping. The piece was seized but the dealer escaped.

Facts about Pre-Inca civilization: Mochica / Moche

  • The Pre-Incas Mochica or Moche civilization flourished for about 1,000 years between 200BC and AD700 on the northern coast of what is now Peru. The society’s major ceremonial and administrative site was Moche, now one of Peru’s most monumental archeological sites.

  • Mochica tombs are filled with some of the most proficient pottery and metalwork found in the central Andes

  • Mochica ceramics are among the best known of ancient Peruvian artifacts. So-called portrait-head effigy pots are especially notable for realistically depicting human features and portraying emotion.

  • Mochica produced more erotic pottery than any pre-Columbian civilization.

  • Mochica metalwork was ornate and technologically advanced. Body ornaments of gold, silver, copper, and alloys were inlaid with turquoise and lapis lazuli.

  • They irrigated extensively, and their agriculture supported many urban centers, which featured stepped pyramids. The cause of their demise is unknown.

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Last updated: November 15, 2007