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US Returns 4,000 Stolen Antiquities To Mexico

The U.S. returned more than 4,000 stolen antiquities to Mexico on Thursday. Most of the artifacts date back before Europeans landed in North America, including pieces dating back to a hunters-gathers era in northern Mexico.

A majority of the relics were uncovered during a string of raids in West Texas in 2009. The U.S. Customs and Border agents seized other antiquities in San Diego, Denver, Chicago, El Paso, Phoenix and San Antonio.

But, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the size and origin of the artifacts are not surprising to those who follow the illicit trade of cultural artifacts:

Noah Charney, the founding director of the nonprofit Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, or ARCA, noted last year that Mexico had reported more than 2 million art objects stolen between 1997 and 2010, according to figures from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology.

Charney wrote that the yearly average of stolen items in Mexico surpasses the yearly average in Italy -- the country with the most stolen art reported each year in Europe -- by a factor of five.

Stolen antiquities make up one small stitch of the large fabric of objects smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border. We have reported agents uncovering migrants, drugs, holiday gifts and, most recently, reptiles.

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