Costa Rica Reclaims Artifacts from New York Museum

(Reuters) – Costa Rica will for the first time display a trove of artifacts, some believed to be more than 2,300 years old, after they were returned unbidden this month from the prestigious Brooklyn Museum in New York.

The museum chose to return the pre-Columbian objects, which could help fill gaps in the history of the isthmus nation where tens of thousands of ancient artifacts have been lost to looters.

“This is quite a complete display of the chronological history of our country,” said Marlen Calvo, head of heritage preservation for Costa Rica’s National Museum.

Stone and ceramic pieces arrived last week and will be part of an exhibit due to open in late October.

The artifacts, some crafted to depict native animal life, were likely made between 300 B.C. and 1500 A.D. to be used in indigenous rituals before Spanish colonization.

Costa Rica never asked for the pieces — which were shipped legally from its shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by a U.S. railroad and banana baron Minor C. Keith — but the Brooklyn Museum offered up the trove last year.

But curators at the Brooklyn Museum, one of the premier art institutions in the United States, said they needed to cull cluttered vaults and would return the bulk of its 5,000 objects known as the “Keith Collection,” holding on to about 10 percent deemed exhibition quality.

(Reporting by Alex Leff)

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