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Feb 14, 2014

UNESCO sends out warning on artifacts in the global market

Shari Williams

The increase in the smuggling of historical artifacts worldwide has prompted a warning by UNESCO. The UN agency has written to the President of the National Institute Diane Haylock, indicating that now more than ever before, religious, sacred, indigenous, and archeological cultural objects have been appearing on the market as well as in public and private collections. It is a global problem that includes Belize because Mayan artifacts are pillaged on a regular basis. Section fifty-six of the Laws of Belize, says “No person should import, export, sell or trade in any manner in ancient monuments or antiquities.” Furthermore, in 2013, Belize and the United States signed an agreement under the 1970 UNESCO convention which places import restrictions on Pre-Columbian archaeological and Colonial-period artifacts from Belize entering the US. The Institute of Archaeology is calling for the public’s cooperation; specifically border management, art dealers and collectors as well as tour guides and tour operators; to exercise diligence regarding the origin of the objects being imported or exported in Belize. Communications Officer at NICH, Shari Williams, says that there is an ongoing anti-looting campaign in schools.


Shari Williams, Communications Officer, NICH

“They’ve called on our president asking her to take action and henceforth she has called on the Director of the Institute of Archeology and all of NICH to send out a stern warning reminding the public that there is a law against importing and exporting of archeological artifacts and antiquities. And so through this measure, we are calling on the public; especially the border management, art dealers, the tour guides and everybody in the art market to practice due diligence when working with artifacts….especially those being offered for sale. Know where they come from, know where they are going to and know the history behind each of the artifacts.”


Duane Moody

“How is this getting out of Belize? How are they getting into private hands, to these people? Is it tourists that are coming in and just taking it out of the country when they are on tours? How is it that it is getting out there?”


Shari Williams

“That’s the million dollar question. If we had the answers, believe you me, we would not be hearing this warning, message from UNESCO. We know that recently, only last year, we signed a bilateral agreement with the U.S. saying that it is illegal to import artifacts from Belize to the U.S. and it is punishable under the U.S. law. Since then, we’ve had some return of artifacts from the U.S.  So we know that these artifacts are going out. How they are going out? That’s the question. There is an ongoing anti-looting campaign. The Institute of Archeology has spent the last six months or so visiting schools, doing public campaigns, attending street art festivals and different things—just sharing with the public about the law that is there; sharing with them what is possible and what’s really fringing on the laws of Belize. And so there is an ongoing anti-looting campaign and I guess from this message that has come to UNESCO, we are now sitting down and looking at ways on how we can really get out there more with this message.”


Stakeholders are being asked to ensure strict compliance with the laws and to take all necessary measures to facilitate the safe return of items illicitly removed.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “UNESCO sends out warning on artifacts in the global market”

  1. LOL says:

    Those Guatemalans and stupid tourist must be pillaging the Maya Ruins

  2. Report smuggling says:

    Moses escalante and oscar escalante originally from San ignacio bout sold or stilling mayan artifacts in Belize and the US. I know this for a fact !

  3. Angela Otts says:

    Here is the crux of the problem, the citizens in these South American countries are so poor that they rely on tourists to buy these items from them. They gather them and sell them at their local markets to whomever will buy them.

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