As I mentioned in my article “Arte-Factual: Tomb Raider I: Chimú Bird Carving”, the Chan Chan archaeological site is a popular target for grave robbers operating in and around Trujillo, Peru. Last week, two Peruvians and two residents of the US state of Utah were accused of smuggling Moche and Chimú pottery out of Peru. It is thought that over 100 pieces of pottery were illegally excavated from the site and authorities are currently trying to locate and repatriate all of the looted artefacts.
Last week a federal grand jury indicted two Utah residents and two Peruvians in an alleged scheme to smuggle recently looted artifacts into the United States.
The case started in the fall of 2012 when an undercover agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) bought 12 artifacts from 70-year old Cesar Guarderas of West Valley City Utah for more than $20,000.
Guarderas told the agent that Javier Abanto-Sarmiento, his supplier in Trujillo, Peru, had access to more than 100 more pieces of pottery. Trujillo is a major city in northwest Peru near what was once the center of the ancient Chimu kingdom. The Chimu capital Chan Chan, just 5 km outside Trujillo, is the largest Pre-Colombian city in South America and the largest adobe city in the world. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1986.
The site has a long history of plunder, as noted by Smithsonian Magazine:
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