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Largest donated artifact collection unveiled in Mexico

February 26, 2009 |  7:25 am

This week, Mexico put on display selections from the largest private collection of archaeological artifacts donated to the government, reports the Associated Press.

The pre-Hispanic relics belonged to American dentist Milton Leoff, who settled in Mexico and began collecting artifacts from the Aztec, Olmec, Maya and other cultures in the 1930s. Leoff's widow, Nadine Vinot, donated the artifacts on condition that the collection stayed together and left Mexico only for exhibition.

The 8,100 pieces that made up the Leoff-Vinot collection include quarter-ton statues of the deity Quetzalcóatl and tiny figurines, with some pieces dating back more than 3,000 years, reports the Efe news agency.

"The head of the Xochicalco archaeological zone [where some of the pieces are on display], Marco Antonio Santos, emphasized the positive aspect of recovering the pieces, but lamented that because they are now removed from their original locations and context they have been deprived of archaeological value and reduced to art objects.

In addition, he said that some of the pieces were found to be "crudely glued with dentistry material."

The pieces include items of stone, stucco, ceramic, jade, cloth, wood, bone, shell, bronze, gold and silver.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City