U.S. government returns two colonial paintings, pre-Columbian artifacts to Peru

The United States government officially handed back to Peru on Wednesday two colonial paintings worth $48,000, the head of the cultural department at the Peruvian embassy in Washington D.C., Luis Chang, told state news agency Andina.

Chang said one painting is valued at $22,000, while the other is worth $26,000.

The paintings were reportedly discovered by the owner of an art gallery in Richmond, Va., who suspected they were contraband because they did not have proper documentation.

“A Bolivian citizen brought them to the United States in 2003, and when damaged he took them to be restored,” said Chang. “The restorer (suspected the paintings) and told the FBI, which began an investigation and they informed the Peruvian embassy to verify the origin of the paintings as Peruvian.”

The paintings will be sent to Peru in a few weeks after they have been documented. They will be delivered to the National Institute of Culture (INC).

The U.S. government also returned to Peru 25 pre-Columbian artifacts. They include 12 craniums dating to 640 – 890 A.D which were discovered at Miami’s International Airport in 2003, as well as ceramics from the Nazca, Inca and Moche civilizations.

Chang said the United States and Peru signed an agreement in 1997 that prohibits smuggling of archaeological and colonial artifacts.

The agreement is renewed every five years and is currently valid until 2012.

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