Latin American and Caribbean countries have called for a German auction house to withdraw from sale 320 pre-Columbian artworks of high cultural significance to the region.
In a joint letter, ambassadors from the countries to Germany asked Munich-based Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger to cancel the planned sale on Tuesday, saying that it violated “international law and potentially, German law”.
For the seven countries affected, the items were an “inseparable part of their social and cultural identity,” the ambassadors said.
The Bavarian auction house said in a statement that all the objects on offer, some of them over 2000 years old, had a “certificate, showing that they are legally in Germany”.
In their letter, the ambassadors criticised “insufficient” progress in the return of items of cultural heritage and called on the public to put pressure on companies involved in the trade.
“Shame on you,” the Panamanian ambassador in Germany, Enrique Alberto Thayer Hausz, said, targeting buyers of artworks that had been taken illegally.
The Panamanian foreign ministry is among those to have informed its German counterpart of its “disagreement with the sale of these objects,” it said in a separate statement Monday.
Panama also called on Germany to prevent the sale until experts from the Panamanian culture ministry determine their origin and the legal aspects surrounding them.
The Panamanian authorities indicated that they had requested assistance from the UN cultural body UNESCO to seek the objects’ return.
The seven Cocle Parita- and Cocle Conte-style pottery vessels claimed by the country are among more than 300 pre-Hispanic objects from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia and Peru.
Featured photo shows artefacts returned to Costa Rica earlier this year.