The mystery began when an anonymous woman walked into New Haven’s Ecuadorian consulate with a shoebox full of missing treasure.
It will end Thursday, when General Consul Raúl Erazo Velarde travels to South America with a package for his ministers of repatriation and culture.
Now, more than a year after their discovery, the uncovered pieces—a snake pot, burial bowl and two partial clay-people—are en route back home.
In October of 2012, the woman arrived at the consulate unannounced and without an appointment, asking to see the general consul. She showed Erazo the cardboard container she’d brought, which had held a pair of Skechers Sport Fusion sneakers. Inside were four ceramic artifacts, each now thought to be more than 1,000 old.
The woman seemed visibly upset and eager to give the objects to someone who knew where they had come from and belonged, Erazo said.
At first glance, the pottery clearly appeared to him to be from his country, and from another time.
Delicate terra cotta patterns—of concentric circles, parallel lines and polygons—adorned the largest bowl. Two smaller figurines resembled people, with recognizable, stylized faces and body parts. A carved snake coiled itself around the opening of the last vessel, its little head coming to rest on its body, two notched eyes staring out in opposite directions.
The larger objects looked to be glazed or painted, while the smaller artifacts were made of partially eroded clay the color of papier-mache, with corrosion obscuring the details of their workmanship.
Erazo thanked the woman and accepted the loot. (The woman, who is Cuban-American, asked to keep her identity unknown.)
The woman said she had found the relics in her house in New Haven. She didn’t know any more about their origins or how long they had been there.
“I believe she had read about the recovery of Peruvian artifacts, and that’s what motivated her to come forward,” Erazo said.
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