The following is from the April 2, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News. SMU Anthropologist David Freidel provided expertise for this story.

Smuggled artifacts stored in Dallas customs vaults returned to Mexico

The Dallas Morning News

A treasure-trove of about 100 artifacts, believed to be pre-Columbian, is on its way to Mexico, its presumed home, U.S. customs agents and Mexican diplomats said Tuesday.

Among the antiquities is a stone mask of a broad-featured man, which is believed to come from the Olmec civilization, the oldest in the Americas, and it dates as far back as 1000 BC, experts said. Other items include figurines in jadeite, precious stones symbolically linked to fertility for the people of ancient Mesoamerica and once valued more than gold. . .

The goods represent several seizures in Texas and New Mexico, including an initial seizure in 2001, said Carlos Fontanez, a CBP spokesman in the Houston office. . .

"As archaeologists, we strongly hold that looted artifacts should not be allowed to be imported into the United States, and we celebrate the interdiction of such artifacts by U.S. Customs," said David Freidel, a professor in the Anthropology Department of Southern Methodist University. "Mexico is very richly blessed with extraordinary pre-Columbian art... highly coveted by private collectors who are ready to purchase from unscrupulous dealers. It is a terrible problem."

Shown slides provided by U.S. Customs, Dr. Freidel said he believed the mask was probably Olmec, but he questioned whether some of the artifacts were from Mexico, or Central America.

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