Guatemala finds hundreds of pre-Hispanic artifacts in U.S. couple’s house

GUATEMALA CITY, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Over 1,200 Mayan antiques were found at the house of two U.S. citizens in Guatemala, authorities said on Thursday, days after the same couple was arrested and later released for stealing historical artifacts.

Authorities on Wednesday found 722 archaeological pieces in various sizes and materials at the Antigua Guatemala home of Allison Jolluck and Giorgio Salvidor Rossilli, as well as 500 smaller pieces, following an investigation for crimes against Guatemala’s cultural heritage.

Neither Jolluck nor Rossilli were available for comment.

Guatemalan authorities said they also seized documents, books, a laptop, compact discs, two cell phones, and a stuffed bird, possibly a quetzal, the symbol of Guatemala.

The couple, who were not home during the raid, are free on bail after paying a fine of 50,000 queztal ($6,400) each last Tuesday. They had been arrested the day before while transporting 166 pre-Hispanic artifacts in their vehicle.

The public prosecutors’ office had said the couple could evade criminal proceedings because they are United States nationals. The previous Thursday, Jolluck had been stopped attempting to leave Guatemala with two pre-Hispanic pieces.

Moises Ortiz, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said the evidence collected at the house was an important step of the proceedings. Guatemala’s prosecutor’s office will have three months to carry out an investigation of the couple.

The artifacts found this week were delivered to the culture ministry for protection and analysis, authorities said.

World culture ministers at a UNESCO conference in Mexico City two months ago pledged to boost efforts to repatriate stolen and illegally traded artifacts to their countries of origin, many of which remain in museums or private collections.

Reporting by Enrique Garcia; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Sarah Morland and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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