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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
01/25/2008

ICE returns pre-Colombian artifacts to Mexico

Three pre-Columbian pottery tools
Three pre-Columbian pottery tools

DOUGLAS, Ariz. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today returned three pre-Colombian grinding tools to Mexico that an Arizona man attempted to bring into the United States illegally last year.

In a brief ceremony held this morning at the port of entry in Naco, Ariz., the manos and metates were returned to Elisa Villapando, an archaeology professor at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Hermosillo, Sonora.

The artifacts were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Naco port of entry in June 2007, after an Arizona resident sought to bring them into the United States claiming they were just rocks. CBP officers then contacted ICE agents, who took the artifacts to the University of Arizona for evaluation. Experts at the University determined that they were pre-Colombian and had significant cultural value.

Agents investigated the individual who attempted to import the artifacts, but the decision was made not to press charges after he agreed to surrender the items so they could be returned to Mexico.

"ICE's mission is to prevent the illegal movement of people and goods across our nation's borders - be it human beings, high-tech weapons, narcotics, or ancient artifacts," said Alonzo Peña, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Arizona.