新闻稿

Emblematic Mayan stela returns to Guatemala

Today, UNESCO hosted a ceremony for the voluntary handover, by the private collector Manichak Aurance, of a fragment of stela no. 9 from the Piedras Negras archaeological site in Guatemala to Francisco Roberto Gross Hernandez, Ambassador of Guatemala to UNESCO, in the presence of Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

This stela disappeared from the Piedras Negras site in the 1960s. It reappeared in Paris in 2019 during an auction. Thanks to the joint mobilization of Guatemala, France and UNESCO, the sale was suspended and mediation initiated. Ms Aurance opted to voluntarily return the fragment to Guatemala.

The voluntary handover of this fragment of a Mayan stela to its homeland in Guatemala showcases the evolution of the international environment in favour of the return of emblematic cultural objects and artefacts to their homelands under UNESCO’s guidance over the last 50 years. It also shows the importance of the UNESCO 1970 Convention in fighting the illicit trafficking of cultural objects. This success story has been possible thanks to international cooperation and a private collector’s goodwill; it is a model for others to follow.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

This important fragment shows the top part of the sumptuous headdress of an ancient ruler of Piedras Negras, who acceded to the throne in the year 729 AD. The fragment depicts the ruler in a jade petticoat worn by the god of corn.

Through this successful example of dialogue and cooperation, a new page opens for this unique piece of Guatemala’s history and cultural identity. 

Guatemala is grateful for the respect, good faith, integrity and value the cooperation with UNESCO in favor of Guatemalan cultural heritage and ancestral culture.
Felipe Aguilar, Minister of Culture and Sports of Guatemala

Piedras Negras is located in the UNESCO Maya Biosphere Reserve, which has archaeological sites and other tangible and intangible elements of great cultural importance, constituting a valuable window into the development of the Maya culture. 

Guatemala is a signatory to the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which this year marks its 50th anniversary of promoting cooperation, concrete measures and advocacy among States Parties, UNESCO and its partners.

The handover of the fragment, which, thanks to UNESCO, will soon be sent to the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Guatemala City, where it can be admired by national and international visitors, underscores the importance of the 1970 Convention and the ongoing fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.

 

Pictures of the handover ceremony available here (©UNESCO/Christelle Alix)

Media contact: Lucia Iglesias Kuntz, l.iglesias@unesco.org, +33 1 45 68 17 02