The artefact is considered to be of phenomenal importance to Peruvian cultural heritage. A central London solicitor’s firm facilitated the return of the headdress on behalf of their client [we are not discussing this
Depicting the image of a sea god, the headdress symbolises a mythical octopus with a stylised human head displaying cat-like features and eight tentacles. It is made from an embossed sheet of gold and considered to be an example of Ancient Peruvian Mochica Civilisation Art dating back to circa 700AD.
Following an intelligence led investigation, the Met’s Art & Antiques Unit worked closely with the Peruvian authorities, Interpol Lima and government ministers. The director of The Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Peru, Dr Walter Alva said of the artefact, “Without a doubt this is a very important moment in the worldwide war against illicit art and the looting of my country, we are speaking about an archaeological object from the utmost historical and aesthetical importance which is one of the most important ornaments of the ancient Peruvian cultures, no ornament of similar quality can be found in any Peruvian museum and it is inconceivable that such an
important part of national treasure is out of our country.”
Detectives believe the piece was extracted from the archaeological site ‘La Mina’ located in the Jequetepeque valley in North Peru where in 1988 a tomb was looted and its contents were immediately trafficked on the black market. Now it has been recovered in London, it is due to be repatriated through diplomatic channels.
Detective Constable Michelle Roycroft from the Met’s Art & Antiques Unit said, “This is a hugely significant seizure by the Met’s Art & Antiques Unit and we are grateful for the extensive knowledge of professionals within the
art industry who have worked closely with us to enable us to make such an important recovery.”
Michel Van Rijn (pronounced Michelle Van Ryan), an art dealer with extensive knowledge and experience of illicit and stolen works of art, whose invaluable help led to the recovery of the headdress said “It is impossible to put a price on a piece of history and world heritage such as this because they never come on the market, but should it do so, it could potentially reach in excess of £1 million.”