“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.
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.