Spain returns looted Peruvian artifacts

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The government of Spain has returned 45 allegedly contraband pre-Columbian artifacts to Peru during a visit by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, officials said Monday.

Twelve of the artifacts returned Monday are pieces"of high archaeological and artistic value" stolen from the Lords of Sipan tomb site in the 1980s, said Walter Alva, lead archaeologist on the dig. They include gold necklace pendants in the shape of an owl's head and a toad, and an embossed gold scepter. Gold masks and jewelry from the La Mina Mochica tomb in northern Peru and ceramics from several pre-Columbian cultures were also returned, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The artifacts were among 253 pieces that Spanish police seized in 2007 from a warehouse owned by Costa Rican Leonardo Patterson, a renowned antiquities dealer and former U.N. cultural attache.

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