FBI returns Mayan artifacts to their home in Guatemala

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Mayan artifacts over a thousand years old are being returned to the Guatemalan government.

Seven items will soon fly back home to Guatemala after a repatriation ceremony Friday at the FBI offices in Los Angeles. They were handed over to the FBI a few months ago following the death of a collector here in California who didn't know the items were stolen when he bought them back in the 1970s.

An art crime division of the agency tracked down their origins to Guatemala, FBI agent Elizabeth Rivas tells KPCC. 

Three of the relics are column-like limestone pieces display Mayan hieroglyphic text. Dated by experts between 600-900 A.D., the sectioned slabs appear to have been the frame of the door when assembled. 

“Experts reviewing these pieces believe that the scripture identifies a passage of time or may have served as a calendar," Rivas said.  

The remaining four pieces are large and square-shaped. They appear to be the base of a larger sculpture when arranged together. 

“These are quite spectacular in size," Rivas said. "They date between 400-600 A.D. and experts have identified them as either an earth or mountain monster and they appear to symbolize the connection between the earth and the underworld," Rivas said.

The relics will be returned to Guatemala in the coming days.

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