A huge U.S. market for Belizean antiquities

The Maya region includes the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Mayanists generally divide the region into the Maya Lowlands in the north and the Maya Highlands in the south. The northern half of Belize falls within the Maya Lowlands while southern Belize is in the Maya Highlands region. When Maya artifacts are offered for sale, they are usually assigned a provenance of either Highlands or Lowlands. Since Belizean artifacts can fall into either category, and since the majority of the artifacts on the market are looted, it is nearly impossible to determine whether antiquities come from Belize, Mexico, or Guatemala.

The most common types of Pre-Columbian antiquities on the United States market are stone tools, ceramic vessels, and small ornamental objects, such as pendants and earflares. All of these objects are commonly associated with graves. Architectural objects and sculptures, while not as common on the black market, are definitely being sold.

Thousands of U.S. dollars are spent on Pre-Columbian cultural material. As stated above, auction houses and Internet dealers offer Maya objects for sale in the U.S. and this market is dependent on looting in Belize. The many looter’s trenches at archaeological sites in Belize bear testimony to this.