Cultural artefact returned to Peru

A Peruvian graveclothes deposited in a drop box for objects covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has been returned to Peru.

Today Donné Slangen, Director-General for Nature and Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), handed over the graveclothes to Marisol Agüero Colunga, the Peruvian Ambassador to the Netherlands. The graveclothes, which consists of fragments of cloth and rope, came to the Ministry in an unusual way.

photo Peruvian Graveclothes

Anonymous deposit

The graveclothes was turned in anonymously to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) through a drop box [1] for objects covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). [2] The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade does not threaten any species’ survival. The drop box offers the opportunity to voluntarily and anonymously turn in objects made from endangered animal and plant specimens that may not be sold or passed on. Examples include shoes made of snake leather, coral, and ivory statues. They can be items a person has inherited or objects bought, possibly illegally, while on holiday.

Regret regarding possession

The graveclothes was accompanied by a letter stating that it came from Peru. The person in question expressed regret for having it. Although the drop box is not intended for items such as this graveclothes, the Dutch CITES Management Authority is nonetheless pleased to be able to contribute – albeit in a somewhat unusual way – to returning this object to Peru, as it has considerable cultural significance.

Photo of the cultural artefact returned by the Dutch authorities to Ambassador of Peru.

Assessment by the Information and Heritage Inspectorate

After the graveclothes was found in the drop box, the Information and Heritage Inspectorate was contacted. Together with an expert from Leiden University they assessed the object and determined that the cloth is a type of textile used to wrap the dead before they are buried, also referred to as a ‘mummy bundle’. The Peruvian authorities were then contacted. They confirmed the authenticity of the graveclothes, which is part of Peru’s legally protected heritage, and requested that the object be returned. 

Dewi van de Weerd, Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation and Alfred Roos, director of the Inspectorate, were present at the return of the graveclothes. Alfred Roos underlined the importance of the protection of cultural heritage, national and international cooperation and the significance of supervision. 

Alfred Roos,  director Information and Heritage Inspectorate.

Awareness and due diligence in the acquisition process of cultural objects are essential elements in fighting trafficking of cultural goods.

Peruvian cultural heritage

Peru is rich in cultural heritage. Unfortunately, many cultural artefacts are looted and unlawfully exported and sold. The object is being returned to Peru in the spirit of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Since October 17, 2009 the Netherlands has been a State Party to the convention, which is aimed at fighting the illegal trade of cultural objects. One of the obligations under the convention is that States Parties assist each other when it is discovered that objects have been unlawfully exported. During the ceremony, the Peruvian authorities voiced their appreciation for the return of this artefact.

[1] [Dutch]

[2] Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [English]

Page was updated on September 18, 2023.