Returning the hatchet

11 Mar 2016 11:08 AM | Anonymous

Returning the hatchet

Governments are starting to return treasures to their neighbours

Mar 12th 2016 | TRUJILLO, PERU

THE basement of a petrol station is not an obvious place to display some 6,000 pre-Columbian ceramics. The shelves of the Cassinelli Museum are crammed with feline gods, copulating animals and vessels shaped like human faces. Many were made by the Moche and Chimú cultures, which peopled Peru’s northern coast for 1,400 years before the arrival of the Incas in the 15th century.

The artefacts are safer here, argued the museum’s late founder, José Luis Cassinelli, than in tombs that dot the desert or beneath the adobe city of Chan Chan. There, they were prey to huaqueros, poor relic-hunters who sold them on to smugglers. Many ended up in American and European private collections. But some were carted off to countries closer to home.