The looting of ancient Mayan objects by Edward Herbert Thompson

In his paper 'The looting of the sacred cenote of Chichen Itzá', archaeologist Alfredo Barrera Rubio said that Thompson had the complicity of U.S. politicians and scientists.
Archive / EL UNIVERSAL
29/06/2015
11:47
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For 40 years Edward Herbert Thompson took out of Yucatán over 30,000 objects of the Mayan culture in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

In his paper "The looting of the sacred cenote of Chichen Itzá", archaeologist Alfredo Barrera Rubio said that Thompson had the complicity of U.S. politicians and scientists such as Stephen Salisbury III, benefactor of the American Antiquarian Society and Charles Bowditch and Frederic Ward Putnam, trustees of the Peabody Museum. Also senator George Frisbie Hoar supported the appointment of Thompson as consul for Campeche and Yucatán in 1885 so that he could carry out his illegal activities without restraint. 

As a preamble to the upcoming presentation of his book, "In Search of the Maya. History of Archaeology in Yucatán," Barrera added that Thompson also looted Mayan sites like Labná and Uxmal through diplomatic bags. The pieces were sent to museums or private collectors in the United States. 

When Leopoldo Batres was inspector of Monuments, Santiago Bolio worked for Thompson as drawer and was also deputy inspector in Yucatán. Adam Siller reported Bolio's complicity with Thompson to loot the objects. 

In March 1923 journalist Alma Reed, who had a love affair with Yucatán governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto, revealed that Thompson hid many pieces in diplomatic bags. Teoberto Maler, also documented the looting by Edward Thompson, even though he signed his report with a pseudonym. 

A study by T. H. Willerd entitled "The city of the sacred well" published in 1926 revealed that 612 objects of jade and gold, spearheads and other pieces were extracted from the Sacred Cenote of Chicent-Itzá. Legal action against Thompson was pursued in that year. 

In total it is estimated that over 30,000 objects were taken from the Sacred Cenote, including coins, small masks, rattles and carved wooden objects, among others. 

According to Barrera, another looter of ancient objects in the region was Sylvanus Morley.

 

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