A massive stone sculpture known as the “Earth Monster” or “Monster of the Earth” has been returned to Mexico from the United States, the Associated Press reported last week.
The stone artifact, which measures close to six feet tall and weighs more than 2,000 pounds, most likely dates back to the Middle Preclassic Period between 800–400 BCE. According to AP, the statue was stolen from Chalcatzingo in central Mexico during the 1960s, though the exact circumstances that led to its arrival in the United States are unclear.
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The Mexican National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) announced last month that Mexican officials first recovered the statue after it had been seized by the Manhattan District Attorney office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit.
In April, ARTnews reported that Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, had confirmed the news in a Twitter post that readm “The Olmec piece most sought after by Mexico has been recovered and is about to return to its home, from where it should never have been stolen.”
According to AP, Ebrard said the massive ancient artwork was given to the Mexican consulate in Denver, Colorado, on Friday.
The statue is believed to represent a motif that has often been repeated in Olmec culture artifacts, the Earth Monster. The work’s gaping mouth is meant to represent the passageway into the underworld. In the corners of the of the square-shaped hole that represents a mouth are branches of the bromeliad plant, a native plant in Chalcatzingo.
Ebrard described not having the sculpture in Mexico to “living with an open wound.”