News and Press Releases

Peruvian Artifact Repatriated

December 8, 2011

WILMINGTON, Del. - A gold Moche monkey head has been returned to the government of Peru today in a repatriation ceremony at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, D.C., announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III for the District of Delaware.

The Moche culture flourished in Peru from the first through eighth centuries AD. Moche nobility were buried in tombs with important symbols of power, often made of gold. Due to the dry climate, the bodies and artifacts have been preserved through the years. In 1987, the royal tombs were discovered in northern Peru, including the Sipan region. Shortly thereafter, tomb raiders descended on the sites, looking for gold. They found it, including the gold monkey head (circa 300 AD). The monkey head ended up in a private collection in the United States. The collector subsequently donated the monkey head to the Museum of New Mexico, Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Museum of New Mexico has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the government of Peru to return the monkey head to its rightful place in Peru.

United States Attorney Charles M. Oberly, III said, “This repatriation is the result of the joint efforts of this office, the FBI Art Crime Team, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, and the Museum of New Mexico. I commend all parties for their efforts in producing this positive outcome. In particular, I commend the Museum of New Mexico for its selfless and noble action in returning this invaluable artifact to Peru. Artifacts like this Moche monkey head represent the history not only of the source country, in this case Peru, but the history of all mankind. We hope that this repatriation will help repair at least some of the damage caused by the looting of Moche sites. Our office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute cultural property crimes in the future.”

Peruvian Monkey Head


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