Spain returns pre-Columbian artifacts from Patterson Collection to Peru

Forty-five pre-Columbian artifacts, hidden in a warehouse in Spain for over 10 years, were returned to Peru by the Spanish cultural patrimony police, reported Peru’s National Culture Institute Monday.

The returned objects – mostly belonging to the Moche culture, but also to the Sican, Cupisnique and Wari cultures – include five necklaces, six nose rings, two ear spools, four masks, eight small ornaments, a ceremonial knife, or tumi, and ceramics.

The artifacts, among more than 1,700 other archaeological treasures from Central and South America, were found in mid-2007 in a Santiago de Compostela warehouse, rented since 1997 by Leonardo Patterson, a former Costa Rican diplomat and renowned art collector.

The pieces featured in a 1997 catalogue titled the “Patterson Collection,” which was selectively distributed in the U.S. and Europe.

Patterson, who was convicted of fraud in 1984 for trying to sell a fake pre-Columbian fresco in Boston, got his break in the pre-Columbian artifacts trade in the 1960s. In 2006, Patterson lived between Munich and Geneva and, according to Martin Calvo of Costa Rica’s National Museum, his collection was worth $100 million.

“He is a looter of industrial proportions,” said former art thief turned thief hunter, Michel van Rijn, to El Comercio’s Fernando Lucena in an interview in London in 2006.

In 2004, the Peruvian government filed a criminal suit against Patterson before the 33rd Criminal Court in order to begin recovery proceedings in Europe.

Two years later, in 2006, one of the most important pieces – a Moche headdress featuring the representation of a anthropomorphic squid – was found in London. It was repatriated to Peru earlier this year.

The 45 artifacts, including the headdress, are expected to soon be put on display in Lima’s National Museum.

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