U.S. Customs intercepts shipment of ancient artifacts on way to South Carolina


SUMTER, S.C. (WCBD) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized a shipment that contained 13 pieces of 10th-century artifacts while in transport to South Carolina.

The shipment was coming from Mexico and heading to a residence in Sumter, South Carolina when it was intercepted by authorities in Louisville, KY.

The collection included a skull and 12 tools for chopping.

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CBP agents say a ‘subject matter expert’ in ancient Americas determined the collection dated from Post-classic to the Aztec era, 1100 through 1532 AD, according to a news release.

“I’m extremely proud that our officers were able to stop priceless artifacts from being lost forever,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations-Chicago Field Office. “Customs and Border Protection will continue to use our border authority to identify and rescue precious antiquities being smuggled by those who profit on the theft of historical and cultural property and return them to their rightful owners.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chicago Field Office
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chicago Field Office

Most countries have laws that protect cultural property, which includes artifacts, antiques, or other archeological and ethnological material.

“These laws include export controls and national ownership of cultural property. Therefore, although they do not necessarily confer ownership, consignees or importers must have documents such as export permits and receipts when importing such items into the United States,” said CBP.

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The Department of Homeland Security enforces the cultural property import restrictions agreed to in bilateral agreements that the United States has concluded with 20 countries and through emergency import restrictions for three additional countries.

CBP has recorded 21 seizures of cultural property with a domestic value of over $18 million since the beginning of 2020.

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