The Royal Ontario Museum in Canada has returned 82 pieces of Mayan artifacts to the Archaeology Department of Belize. Archaeologist Paul Francisco reports that the jade, shell and ceramic pieces all date back to 600 A.D. and, except for one, all came from the Altun Ha Mayan site in the Belize district.
The Royal Ontario Museum had displayed some of the pieces with the consent of the government of Belize, since at the time Belize had neither the expertise nor the facilities to properly restore nor house them. It is uncertain exactly when the artifacts left Belize, though it is possible that it may have been during the mid-60's when noted archaeologist Sir David Pendergast was doing excavation work in Belize.
Prior to the mid 80's, Belize had no regulations in place to prevent the exportation of artifacts from Belize. The practice has now ceased, and there are now qualified Belizean archaeologists to restore and care for our artifacts.
Prime Minister Said Musa viewed the repatriated artifacts last Friday afternoon and said Belize will continue to lobby for the return of other artifacts held in foreign trusts.
Belizeans throughout the country will get a chance to see the 82 artifacts first hand when they tour Belize as a roving exhibition. Eventually all the pieces will join other archaeological treasures on display at the National Museum.