The State recovers 81 pre-Columbian artifacts from private hands

“If a private owner has no way to prove that the artifacts are his own, so they belong to the state.”

With those words, the head of the Cultural Heritage Museum, Marlin Calvo, summarized the reach of a ruling by the First Chamber of the Supreme Court on a case related to the protection and recovery of archaeological heritage.

Three stone spheres and various ceramics and jade, are part of the 81 pre-Columbian artifacts that become the property of the Costa Rican after resolution 000188-F-S1-2012.

The judges determined that all pre-Columbian archaeological objects that had a man identified only by the initials AJA -Died in 2002 – are in the public domain in the Costa Rican government.

The decision also states that the parts are excluded from the inventory of goods to be distributed over the hereditary succession made after the death of A.J.A and which was named an executor identified as EFA

The judges supported his decision on the Law No. 7 of the October 6, 1938, which regulates the ownership, operation and trade in archaeological relics, and the Law No. 6703, of January 12, 1982, Defense National Heritage and Archaeological Conservation.

Calvo explained that this failure is the final chapter in a case that kept competing the Costa Rican state and a private owner since 2002.

“In reality, the conflict comes from further back as in 1975 this gentleman collector informed the National Museum, by choice, he was in possession of 235 pre-Columbian artifacts, but a simple notification is not enough to make an inventory,” explained Calvo.

The ruling clarifies that that communication did the collector “is not equivalent to a record, because the requirements violated Articles 9 and 10 of Law No. 7 of October 6, 1938.” According to the document, the collector failed to provide information about objects, and its nature, a brief description of each piece, origin, weight, dimensions, name and address of the owner, among others. “Moreover, the cause not the objects presented to the National Museum to check the data,” reads the ruling.

According to Calvo he said, the June 17, 2002, the museum received an anonymous denunciation about creating a will which include pre-Columbian pieces. “We requested the intervention of the Attorney General’s Office because the succession process, already was open and was appointed as executor a woman,” said Calvo.

This person introduced in 2003 and in 2005 an appeal and another of unconstitutionality in the Constitutional Court, but both were dismissed. In the ruling, the judges of the First Chamber determined that the pre-Columbian objects inventoried in the estate “in the public domain for lack estate sectors both Mr. AJA as his succession of “compelling evidence demonstrating private property lawfully acquired before the Law No. 7 of October 6, 1938.”

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