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Peru sues Swedish city over 'stolen' artifacts

AFP/The Local · 5 Jul 2011, 14:25

Published: 05 Jul 2011 14:25 GMT+02:00

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"This comes as a total surprise to us, because we've had a good dialogue with Peru ever since they demanded we return the items in question," Björn Sandmark, head of the Culture Administration in Gothenburg, told news agency AFP on Tuesday.

The textiles in question are more than 2,000 years old and are currently on show at the Gothenburg city-owned Museum of World Culture (Världskulturmuseet).

Peter Skogh, communication and marketing director at the museum, was equally thrown by the news, when The Local spoke to him on Tuesday.

"We've heard about this only through the media, where we've seen the statements President Garcia has made. But we haven't received any information directly from Peru", Skogh told The Local.

Björn Sandmark told AFP that he hoped legal action could be avoided, pointing out that the tone had been positive when he had met twice with Peru's ambassador to Sweden and, most recently in March with the new general consul.

The city's culture administration had quickly recommended returning the objects to Peru.

But the final decision lies with Gothenburg's municipal council, which is not likely to handle the issue until after the summer holidays, according to Sandmark.

"These things often take time," he explained, adding that he thought Peruvian authorities had understood and agreed with the process.

He also said such exchanges should be handled "between museums and not at a state-level."

The Paracas culture flourished on Peru's southern coast from around 100 BC to 200 AD, but little was known about their people until archaeological excavations were begun in the 1920s.

Story continues below…

According to the Gothenburg museum website, "large quantities of Paracas textiles were smuggled out of Peru and illegally exported to museums and private collections all over the world around 1930. About a hundred of them were smuggled to Sweden and donated to the Ethnographic Department of the Gothenburg Museum."

The town officially possesses 89 of the textiles, displayed since 2008 and under surveillance, according to the website.

In May 2010, Sweden returned 33 pre-Columbian textile fragments to Peru, the Latin American country most affected by theft of archaeological artifacts.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:00 July 5, 2011 by RobinHood
I have seen these textiles at the Museum of World Culture. I'm afraid I found them incredibly boring.

Advice to Sweden: if you are going to steal something important from another country's culture, at least steal something interesting like the Elgin Marbles or the lost treasure of Troy. Otherwise it's just not worth the fuss.
19:54 July 5, 2011 by Rishonim
Happy to see Peru is taken some action to get back what belongs to them. Some cultural institutions in Sweden tend to appropriate stolen goods like the case of Blumengarten and then refuse to return it.
23:06 July 5, 2011 by Nemesis
Dismissing a countries entire concerns by stating to wait until the end of the summer holidays, is one way to really annoy a country.

The Swedes have a very condescending attitude about this. They need to take it more seriously and stop retreating to passive agressive modes when challenged.

A court case in the international courts might wake up the Swedes a bit.
02:17 July 6, 2011 by Kaethar
The exhibition is ABOUT stolen artefacts and is a joint effort between Swedish and Peruvian preservation societies. Peru has always been fine with the cloths being kept in Sweden due to their fragile nature - it's Peru's new government protesting and using this as a political ploy. It's no wonder they're not being taken very seriously.
12:47 July 6, 2011 by heu
@Kaethar: So you mean the "new" government that's been in power since 2006 and is being replaced in less than a month from now?

The article says that Peru has been asking for the items back for a while but Sweden seems to be delaying the return. Perhaps they just got pissed off.
14:30 July 6, 2011 by Nemesis
@ Kaethar


The government has been in power since April 2006. It is not a new government.

The artifacts been stolen from Peru and have to be returned. The Swedish government has been playing games on this issue for some years now. The Peruvian authorites have tried to be nice and are fobbed of constantly with excuses for inaction, by Swedish authorities.

Now moves are being made to start court proceedings regarding the theft of these items from Peru.

This issue has actually been in the news for some time now, in not just Peru, but most South American countries, as well as a lot of archeological publications.

It has been viewed in most South American countries and other parts of the world, as blatant cultural theft, which is what it is.
14:58 July 6, 2011 by Kaethar
@Nemesis: Yes, the new government. Sweden has had these cloths for decades, after all. Like I said, the previous governments have had no problem with it due to the fact that the cloths are extremely difficult to move and that they're being used as part of a stolen-artefact exhibition to spread awareness of the issue.

The new government has been using it as a political ploy even as their preservation societies say otherwise. It would be like if Riksbiblioteket decided that Greece could keep a Swedish book collection in a museum for whatever reason and then when the Moderates were elected they demanded Greece hand them back as part of their campaign. Absurd, is it not?

For someone who claims that "this issue has actually been in the news for some time" you don't seem to be very well-read on it.
17:38 July 6, 2011 by Rick Methven
@nemesis "The government has been in power since April 2006"


Elections in Sweden are held in September The current government has been in power since the 17 September 2006.

If you are all so fired up about the time that it is taking to return these cloths, (which Sweden is not saying that they will not be returned) Why not get off your high horse and pop over to the museum, and demand that they give them to you to hand back to the rightful owners. Of course they are so fragile that you would destroy them,
00:31 July 7, 2011 by nimshubur
@ Rick Methven:

Nemesis is actually correct in this instance. The Peruvian president has held office since April 2006.
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