In a significant achievement for Peru’s cultural heritage, a unique Chimu Huaco (1), representing a remarkable piece of the country’s ancient history, has been voluntarily returned to the Peruvian Embassy in the Netherlands.
The return of this precious artifact marks a important moment in the ongoing efforts to repatriate Peruvian cultural treasures that were removed from their homeland years ago. This act of goodwill by a Dutch citizen, Michael van Os de Man, highlights the collaborative spirit between the Netherlands and Peru in preserving the legacy of Peru’s ancient civilizations.
The story of this Chimu Huaco’s return is a testament to the relentless dedication and diplomatic finesse of H.E. Ms. Marisol Agüero Colunga, Ambassador of Peru to the Netherlands, who has spearheaded numerous initiatives to repatriate Peruvian cultural property. One such notable accomplishment was the signing of an agreement in July 2021 between H.E. Mr. Arjen Uijterlinde, Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador Agüero, leading to the Dutch Government’s delivery of 28 cultural objects belonging to Peru’s cultural heritage. This was achieved through a concerted effort between the Foreign Ministries of both countries, the Dutch Information and Heritage Inspectorate, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and the Embassy of Peru, in particular S.S. Galo Garcés’ interest and expertise in this area.
The 28 returned objects encompass a wide range of artifacts from various ancient Peruvian civilizations, including the Chimú, Chancay, Moche, Wari, and Vicús, dating back to a span between 200 BC and 1476 AD. The collection features captivating ceramics adorned with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, as well as vibrant textiles boasting intricate patterns. Intriguingly, ancient seeds were also among the objects saved from being auctioned off.
The success in repatriating these artifacts is a reflection of the close collaboration between the Netherlands and Peru, particularly within the framework of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This international treaty has played a crucial role in ensuring that cultural treasures like the Chimu Huaco find their way back to their place of origin.
Ambassador Agüero emphasized the extraordinary significance of reclaiming these cultural treasures, underscoring that “the legacy of these cultures constitutes an immense source of pride for the Peruvian people.” She also recognized the noble gesture of Mr. Michael van Os de Man of returning to Peru such an important piece of its historical past: “his decision to hand over this object belonging to the Cultural Heritage of my country, reflects a deep respect for the legacy of an ancient culture and the recognition of the importance that we, all Peruvians, give to it”.
These objects represent the history and heritage of Peru’s ancestors, and their return symbolizes the respect and gratitude of the Peruvian people toward the Dutch government for facilitating the repatriation process.
The recent return of the Chimu Huaco, handed over by Michael van Os de Man, is a heartening example of individuals taking responsibility for the cultural heritage they possess. Van Os de Man’s decision to return the artifact is commendable, particularly as he inherited it from a relative who acquired it in a time when international regulations on cultural property were not stablished. Recognizing the importance of this cultural relic, he reached out to Dr. Edward de Bock, a renowned Dutch academic and pre-Hispanic culture authority, for guidance on the repatriation process.
During the handover ceremony, Dr. de Bock noted the uniqueness of the Chimu Huaco compared to other ceramic pieces from the same culture. His words reflected the importance of this act of returning the object to the Peruvian Embassy, not only for the historical significance but also for the advancement of Peruvian culture research.
Ambassador Marisol Agüero, who received the Chimu Huaco on behalf of the Peruvian State, lauded Mr. van Os de Man’s initiative and Dr. de Bock’s invaluable guidance. She also highlighted the significance of the return, as it would enable further study of this invaluable artifact and enhance our understanding of Peru’s rich cultural history.
The return of the Chimu Huaco is a shining example of international cooperation and ethical responsibility preserving cultural heritage. It not only enriches Peru’s cultural identity but also underscores the power of individuals, governments, and academics working together to ensure that the legacies of ancient civilizations continue to be celebrated and protected for generations to come.
 Huaco is a prehispanic fine pottery artwork made by the inhabitants of the Americas.