MEXICO CITY – Mexico has recovered from the United States a giant stone statue known as an “earth monster” that dates to the Olmec civilisation before the Christian era, the authorities said.
The elaborately carved statue weighs more than a tonne and is nearly 1.8m tall and 1.5m wide, the National Anthropology and History Institute (Inah) said in a release.
“Our consul Jorge Islas in New York confirms to me that Mexico’s most-sought Olmec piece has been recovered and is about to return home, from where it never should have been taken,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted.
The Olmec civilisation predated those of the Maya and Aztec cultures, and its artisans were known for creating colossal stone heads, statues and upright slabs.
The institute said it believes the statue was created some time between 800BC and 400BC.
Known as Monument 9 of Chalcatzingo and found in the central Mexican state of Morelos, the bas-relief piece is believed to represent an “earth monster”, a creature that often appears in Olmec iconography, Inah said.
The open jaws of the piece symbolise the access to the underworld and “on its mouth is projected a sequence of three concentric bands, representing the cruciform access to a cavern”, the institute added.
Although it is not known how and when it was illegally taken from Chalcatzingo, an archaeological site, “it is documented that it was made public in 1968 by the archaeologist David Grove in the magazine American Antiquity”, Inah said.
“From there, it is thought that at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, it was already in the United States.”
The New York authorities recovered the monument, but the press release did not specify where it was found.
As part of the Mexican government’s effort to rescue historical heritage taken from the country, almost 10,000 goods have been recovered since 2018, the authorities said. AFP