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Colombia Recovers Indigenous Artifacts from Switzerland and New Zealand 

Colombia Recovers Indigenous Artifacts from Switzerland and New Zealand 
Credit: X/ @CancilleriaCol

Colombia has successfully repatriated 16 archaeological pieces from Switzerland and New Zealand, as announced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. These artifacts, belonging to the indigenous cultures of Colombia, were reclaimed through international cooperation and voluntary returns. 

About the Indigenous Artifacts Returned to Colombia

Fifteen of the artifacts were repatriated from Switzerland, a country with which Colombia has an “Agreement concerning the import and return of cultural goods.” The Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) identified these artifacts, noting that “one is a tabloid from the Middle Cauca, and the other 14 are votive gold pieces used by the Muisca people, who inhabited the eastern highlands from 800 B.C. until the arrival of the Iberian conquerors in the 16th century, for various ritual events.” These pieces included ceramics and gold artifacts from the Quimbaya and Muisca archaeological regions. The official handover was made to Ambassador Francisco Echeverri by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. 

The remaining piece, a medium-sized globular ceramic vessel, was returned from New Zealand. This return was made possible by the voluntary action of a private citizen, as detailed by the ICANH. This ceramic piece is associated with the Upper Magdalena region and its return signifies a collaborative effort involving the Colombian Embassies abroad, the General Directorate of Protocol, and the Presidential Military House. 

What Is Being Said

Elizabeth Taylor Jay, the Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs, emphasized the constitutional mandate under Article 72 of the Political Constitution, which stipulates that mechanisms must be established to reclaim the nation’s cultural heritage from private hands. “We had a constitutional mandate through Article 72 of the Political Constitution which defined that mechanisms had to be established to reacquire the nation’s cultural heritage that was in the hands of private individuals,” Taylor Jay stated. 

Moving forward, ICANH professionals in archaeology and conservation will conduct further analyses to assess the condition of all the repatriated pieces and confirm “their belonging to the nation’s archaeological heritage.”  

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