National Geographic article features William Saturno, Francisco Estrada-Belli, and graduate student Mary Clarke
Losing Maya Heritage to Looters
Stolen artifacts are making it from the Guatemalan jungle to wealthy black-market buyers.
For instance, the only way to find 14 Maya pots at once would be to uncover the burial of a very wealthy king. In archaeology, such finds can make a researcher’s career and redefine our understanding of entire dynasties or eras during the Classic period (300-900 A.D.). But taken out of context, these pots are nearly worthless to science.
“It does almost nothing,” says William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University who has been working in Xultún for more than a decade and a National Geographic grantee. “It should be returned to the country of origin where it was taken from so that they might have it back. But it’s unlikely that it will tell anything.”