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Guatemala finds hundreds of pre-Hispanic artifacts in the home of an American couple

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – More than 1,200 Mayan antiquities were found in the home of two US citizens in Guatemala, authorities said Thursday, days after the same couple was arrested and later released for stealing historical artifacts.

Authorities on Wednesday found 722 archaeological pieces in various sizes and materials in Antigua Guatemala, home of Allison Jolluck and Giorgio Salvidor Rossilli, as well as 500 smaller pieces, following an investigation into crimes against Guatemala’s cultural heritage.

Neither Jolluck nor Rossilli were available for comment.

Guatemalan authorities said they also seized documents, books, a laptop, CDs, two mobile phones and a stuffed bird, possibly a quetzal, the symbol of Guatemala.

The couple, who were not at home during the raid, are out on bail after paying a fine of 50,000 queztal ($6,400) every past Tuesday. They had been arrested the day before while transporting 166 pre-Hispanic artifacts in their vehicle.

The public prosecutor had said that the couple could avoid prosecution because they have American nationality. The previous Thursday, Jolluck had been stopped trying to leave Guatemala with two pre-Hispanic pieces.

Moises Ortiz, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said the evidence gathered was an important step in the proceedings. The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office has been given three months to investigate the couple.

The artifacts found this week have been delivered to the Ministry of Culture for protection and analysis, authorities said.

World culture ministers at a UNESCO conference in Mexico City two months ago pledged to step up efforts to repatriate stolen and illegally trafficked artifacts to their countries of origin, many of which remain in museums or private collections.

(Reporting by Enrique Garcia; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Sarah Morland and Grant McCool)

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