Judicial agents confiscate pre-Columbian collection from Santa Rosa

Judicial investigators raided a summer home in Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and confiscated 67 pre-Columbian pieces, mostly pots.

Although the Judicial Investigating Organization characterized the pots as having high value, they were mostly nondescript, plain bowls and three metates and a mano used at one time for grinding grain. None appears to be ready for display in the Museo Nacional.

It was museum officials who triggered the raid.

The most elaborate of the pieces, an anthropomorphic pot, has a broken rim. It had the figure of a man with the protruding head of a jaguar.

Judicial police said that the home was the property of a man from Heredia who was not further identified. Judicial investigators said that part of the high value was due to the historic and cultural value of the pots. They also said that the property owner would face an action from prosecutors.

The pots most likely will end up in the museum’s storage facilities in Pavas. Museum officials are aggressive in confiscating all sorts of pre-Columbian artifacts, in part to reduce the illegal trade. Many of the pieces were collected by Costa Ricans and expats before there was a law prohibiting this type of activity.

In the past, the museum has been forced to return some pieces because there was a high probability that they were collected legally. Museum officials will catalogue archaeological pieces in private collections on the assumption that they belong to the state.

Costa Rica’s museums have a large quantity of pieces for which workers have no record as to when and where they were collected. So as archaeological finds, they are worthless.

Santa Cruz in pre-Columbian times were influenced heavily by cultures to the north. The section that is now Guanacaste was nominally a dependency of the Aztec Empire in the Valley of México. This area was a source for ceramics and tribute. Residents still make ornate polychrome pieces in the style of their ancestors.

A variety of pots, a jaguar bowl and well-used metates and a mano make up the collection.

A variety of pots, a jaguar bowl and well-used metates and a mano make up the collection.

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