Arizona-based Homeland Security Investigations officials returned more than 250 pre-Columbian artifacts to Mexico in a repatriation ceremony Tuesday in Nogales.
Scott Brown, special agent in charge of HSI Phoenix, presented the 277 artifacts to Mexican Consul General Ambassador Ricardo Santana and Jose Luis Perea, director of the Mexican Institute for Anthropology and History.
“The cultural significance of artifacts from regions around the world extends beyond any monetary value,” Brown said in a press release. “The pieces, like those discovered, are fragments of history and it is an honor to return them to their rightful home country.”
HSI agents in Phoenix and Nogales had been working on investigations to recover the artifacts for almost a decade.
The Phoenix case began in 2013 when a representative with the Chandler Historical Society reached out regarding multiple suspected pre-Columbian Chinesco-Western pottery figures with origins as far back as 100 B.C. located at the Chandler Museum.
Analysis showed the 10 relics were more than 1,500 years old and originated in Mexico.
The remaining 267 artifacts were recovered when two Mexican citizens entered into the United States from Mexico through the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales in 2013.
HSI Nogales took custody of the artifacts, which included arrowheads, axe heads, hammer heads, spear heads and small stone carvings.
The pieces were estimated to be between 1,000 and 5,000 years old.
The combined monetary value of the artifacts was approximated to be more than $150,000.
HSI returned the relics because of laws that said the seized pieces must be returned to their proper home.
“This event allows us to deeply recognize the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico as well as the resistance and presence of its contemporary indigenous peoples,” Perea said in the release.