An inspector seeking information about illegal tree cutting found that an expat couple in Piedades de Santa Ana had more than 70 pre-Columbian archaeological piece, some of them museum quality.
The pieces were confiscated Wednesday and placed in the custody of the Museo Nacional. Costa Rican law requires this, but many homes have similar collections.
The Poder Judicial identified the couple by the last name of Van Wilpe. They were reported to be Dutch.
The collection included 10 examples of metates, stone devices that are designed to grind corn. Some are very elaborate, and they also were used as grave goods. There were a lot of ceramics confiscated.
Although museum workers said that the metates could bring a
six-figure price on the international market, there was no indiction that the couple planned to sell any. The museum officials said that experts would evaluate the pieces and verify their pre-Columbian origin.
A lot of elaborate pieces are modern duplicates.
The Poder Judicial said that a proposed housing development was being put in and some trees were cut, which is why the inspector showed up at the home Oct. 14.
In one well publicized confiscation of archaeological items, museum officials had to return them because the owners proved that their possession predated the Ley sobre Patrimonio Nacional Arqueológico.
The law against possessing such pieces carries a prison penalty, but it is enforced irregularly. Some excellent ceramics and other pieces can be found at the Sunday flea market, most likely the result of a burglary of an upscale home.