Peru celebrates return of stolen Sican gold mask found in Germany


This ceremonial mask, which is unrelated to the one stolen from Peru, is shown only as an example of Sican gold artistry. It dates to 900-1100 A.D. and is part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Public domain image

LIMA, Peru (AP) – Peru is celebrating the return of an ancient funeral mask made of gold following a two-decade legal battle to repatriate the smuggled antiquity from Germany.

President Martin Vizcarra on Monday attended a ceremony at the presidential palace where the Sican mask was shown publicly for the first time since its return to the South American nation.

The 8th century mask depicting a pre-Incan deity was seized in 1999 in Germany from a Turkish art dealer arrested for selling looted objects. It was handed over last week to Peru’s embassy in Berlin.

The mask made of hammered gold alloy with silver eyes is one of the most emblematic of 9,000 art objects Peru has repatriated the last decade. Authorities believe the mask was taken from Peru in the late 1990s.

The Sican  culture is the name that archaeologist Izumi Shimada gave to the culture that inhabited what is now the north coast of Peru between about 750 and 1375 A.D. According to Shimada, Sican means “temple of the Moon”. The Sican culture is also referred to as Lambayeque culture, after the name of the region in Peru. It succeeded the Moche culture. There is still controversy among archeologists and anthropologists over whether or not the two are separate cultures. The Sican culture is divided into three major periods based on cultural changes as evidenced in archeological artifacts.

Auction Central News contributed to this report.

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