BY IHOSVANI RODRIGUEZ
They were found spread out in cupboards, book shelves and in boxes inside a trailer home in Central Florida.
On Tuesday, about 150 Peruvian and Ecuadorian artifacts, some more than three centuries old, were returned to their homeland where authorities say they belong.
“I couldn’t dare to put a value to the collection, but as a culture, to us they are invaluable,” said Jaime Arrospide, deputy consul general of Peru, during a press conference in Miami.
The bizarre case began in 2007 when a retired businessman, identified as Edgardo Sosa, died with no relatives or heirs. After a long probate case, a management group that ran Sosa’s retirement community in Avon Park bought his home. Sales manager Heather Barfield said she found the artifacts and realized quickly they weren’t just any pottery that could be found on eBay.
“In searching the Internet, we realized this is illegal to possess. So we contacted the FBI,” she said on Tuesday.
Most of the artifacts — baskets, jewelry, figurines and sculptures — appear to be red clay pots of various sizes. Others seem to be made from cloth. Barfield said they were spread throughout the two-bedroom, pre-manufactured home.
The FBI’s Art Crime Team based in Miami teamed with archaeologists from Florida International University to trace the origins. They believe they were initially stolen from graves and churches and later sold on the black market.
About 140 items were determined to be from areas in that make up modern-day Peru and 12 were traced to sites in modern-day Ecuador.
Most predate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemispher