Treasure Returned to Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA — The Honduran Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, received two jade- and iron pyrite-coated jaw bones of two members of the Maya elite that had been sent anonymously to the Honduran Embassy in the Netherlands.

The pieces were delivered Tuesday to IHAH manager Dario Euraque by Honduras’ deputy foreign relations secretary Eduardo Rosales.

Euraque told Efe in Tegucigalpa that the jaws were those of two different Mayan individuals who lived centuries ago in the Copan sector of western Honduras, according to studies by Dr. Raphael Panhuysen, an archaeology professor at the Netherlands’ Leiden University.

The pieces were delivered anonymously to the embassy of that Central American country in the Netherlands, perhaps by some collector who decided it was best that they be returned to their country of origin, he said.

Euraque and Rosales said there are no more details on how the remains arrived in that European country nor about the person who handed them over to the embassy this summer.

Some teeth of the two jaws are adorned with jade and iron pyrite encrustations, a technique only used to decorate the remains of the most powerful people in Classic Maya civilization, which flourished for more than 11 centuries before abruptly collapsing around 900 A.D.

After the bones were received at the embassy in the Netherlands, the government of that European country requested that they be examined at Leiden University to determine their origin and to document the dental adornment, the Honduran foreign relations secretariat said.

It added that the pieces were studied using strontium isotope analysis, which showed that the ratio of strontium in the tooth enamel was consistent with that found in the water of Honduras’ Copan River.

The tests determined that the individuals to whom the remains belonged were from an area of western Honduras now known as the Copan Ruins, the Central American country’s most important archaeological site.

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