Mexico has recovered three ancient artifacts from Italy on Friday, reclaiming the works as part of an ongoing effort to track down and bring back artifacts that have scattered across the world.
The three items — a clay pot adorned with human figures and two ceramic human faces, reports Reuters — were illegally exported from Mexico and bound for an auction. Italy’s Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage confiscated the 2,300-year-old relics and returned them to Mexican officials.
This month, Mexico opened a massive exhibit showcasing 1,525 pre-Hispanic artifacts, reports Smithsonian Magazine, and more than half of them came from recovery efforts like the one concluded Friday. The exhibition, which marked Mexico’s 200th anniversary of independence from Spain, was the first time many of the items were displayed in their home country.
Many of the artifacts were returned voluntarily, like the 650 items the Italian government has handed over since 2013. But some came through police seizures abroad, reported The Associated Press. Mexico recently launched a special art crimes unit dedicated to tracking down looted pieces of art, writes Observer, and soon afterward succeeded in recovering manuscripts related to Hernán Cortés that had been stolen from Mexico’s National Archive.
Mexican officials have said stronger regulations on antiquities trade could reduce the incentive to steal artifacts, since so many heads to the massive auction markets. “The people who buy these pieces, who traffic these pieces, are criminals. You share responsibility if you buy something stolen,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.