Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Quimbaya Treasure

Colombia’s Constitutional Court heard testimony from more than 20 national and international experts to determine whether treasures from the pre-Columbian Quimbaya culture were illegally handed over to Spain at the end of the 19th century.

In 1893, Colombian President Carlos Holguín Mallarino gifted more than 120 gold objects to Spain’s Queen Regent María Cristina. Since then, the Quimbaya Treasure has been on display at the Museo de América in Madrid. The Quimbaya civilization was first recorded as early as the 1st century BC in parts of the Eje Cafetero and Valle del Cauca. The Quimbaya were noted for their extraordinary skill in gold working.
For more than a decade, Colombian legal experts have debated whether the ancient artifacts should be repatriated. A 2006 case ended with a ruling that the gift of the treasure violated Colombia’s constitutional protections of cultural patrimony. But later appeals overturned the decision saying that the treasure had not been officially considered patrimony at the time it was handed over to Spain.

The current case has been before the Constitutional Court since 2012. When the Spanish arrived in Colombia, Quimbaya civilization was organized and centralized, with its center in what is now the department of Quindío. Their lifestyle was based on the cultivation of yuca and corn, hunting and mining. The Quimbaya largely disappeared as a distinct civilization by the 18th century as a result of Spanish colonization.

Mask with nose ornament, Colombia, Quimbaya