The systematic looting and plunder of Mayan Temples all across Belize has been happening for decades if not centuries, and there are treasures untold that have been stolen from Belize.
The full story on that may never be told - but at least one stolen item, a ceramic bowl, has been recovered and returned.
Dr. Jaime Awe of the Institute of Archaeology today told us about the latest recovery from the USA:
Dr. Jaime Awe - Director, Institute of Archaeology
"Jules, what we have here today with us is a classic period ceramic vessel. It's a polychrome bowl, which dates to the early classic period, somewhere between 400 to about 600 A.D. And this ceramic vessel was actually confiscated by the US Immigration and Customs agents. I've just received a bit more information about the whole procedure. Apparently, it was confiscated from a male individual in State of New Mexico. And the US agencies contacted a professor of archaeology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to look at the various objects that this gentleman had in his possession. And it was this colleague of ours, an archaeologist by the name of Keith Prufer, who works at Ush Beng Cal in the Toledo District, who identified the vessel as being an authentic Mayan artifact. And based on its style, it was most likely of Northern Belize manufacture. Based on the style, we know that it's very typical of the types of things being produced around that time at places anywhere between, let's say, Lamanai and Blue Creek up in the north. Again, you know, this style of painting - the form of the vessel - is very common of early classic materials being produced in not just the Northern Belize, but also the north-eastern Peten. Often what we do is we find these artifacts either in burials or special offerings. Various archaeologists have argued that these vessels were used for feasting events, when a ruler wanted throw an event, and invited representatives from other neighboring sites, that they would be served tamales, fruit, and other materials in these fancy vessels. Obviously, we do not have any hieroglyphic inscriptions on it. We don't have any beautiful individual rulers painted on it, or even the date of his highest quality. Inspite of that, I think that all these vessels are very important. These are part of the Belizean past, and I think that, for us, the fact that we can bring this back home is of very significant importance."
The bowl was returned under the "Hold Harmless Release Agreement" between the United States and Belize.
According to a NICH release, on her return from a visit to Washington, D.C., NICH President Diane Haylock, brought the bowl home.
And in case you didn't know, it is illegal to buy or sell Maya artifacts in Belize, all artifacts found should be reported to the Institute of Archaeology, and artifacts found are the property of the Government of Belize.