San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel Turns Over 276 Pre-Columbian Artifacts

A hotel in Heredia turned over its entire collection of Costa Rican artifacts this week, in compliance with a 1982 law that declares that all pre-Columbian pieces found in Costa Rica are property of the state.

The collection, which has long been on display at the Hotel Bougainvillea, consists of 276 high-quality, pre-Columbian ceramic and stone pieces.

According to the hotel’s website (, the collection includes a three-legged tripod used as a platform to hold a deceased person before burial, a pot used to transport corn, a ceremonial urn used to bury stillborn babies and a small collection of cups used to drink chocolate.

“Most of the archaeological artifacts on display are original,” read a description on the website. “Some bear signs of restoration but provide interesting insight into customs of a period of life a thousand years ago or more.”

The National Museum has been making headlines as of late for its efforts to collect privately held artifacts of the country’s pre-Columbian heritage. In the past few months, police have raided private homes, diplomats have negotiated with foreign museums and collectors are voluntarily boxing up their items and taking them to the museum’s storage facility in the western San José district of Pavas, apparently in an accelerated initiative to reclaim items (TT, Aug.27).

Museum Director Patricia Fumero, who is on leave following a controversy involving artifacts held by members of her family, would prefer to put a moratorium on the seizure of artifacts.

“It’s more important to document these pieces and have photos of them than what has happened in other countries, where they have been smuggled across borders and lost,” she said. “(A moratorium) would give us the opportunity to locate existing pieces and ensure they are properly documented and stored, and that they are protected.”

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