A rare and spectacular golden "backflap" from the ancient Moche culture of Peru--made famous by a successful Philadelphia-based FBI sting operation to recover it from international black market art smugglers--goes on display at the University Museum July 16 through August 8. The short-term exhibit will include artifacts, excavation photographs and information on the Moche civilization, information about the looting of archaeological sites, and the FBI success story; it is presented in cooperation with the FBI and the government of Peru.
The ancient artifact, which archaeologist call a "backflap," is a piece of royal costuming worn by elite members of the Moche Civilization of Peru, circa 200 BC to AD 700. Made of an alloy of gold, copper and silver, the backflap weighs about 2.5 pounds. The backflap and hundreds of other objects, were removed by grave robbers from a tomb at Sipan before archaeologists had access to the site.
The Moche backflap was recovered on October 7, 1997 by special FBI agents and detectives from the Philadelphia Police Department at the Adam's Mark Hotel parking lot on City Line Avenue. Two men from Florida were arrested, pleaded guilty and sentenced to nine month jail terms. Another man, a former Panamanian diplomat, currently a fugitive, has been indicted on conspiracy, smuggling and interstate transportation of stolen property charges.
"We are delighted to cooperate with the government of Peru and the FBI to display this extraordinary Moche object--a rare and fascinating piece of evidence from a great, ancient human culture we know far too little about," said Dr. Jeremy Sabloff, director of the Museum. He added, "The University of Pennsylvania Museum has long taken a leadership role against looting of archaeological sites and black market trading."
The backflap will be returned to the government of Peru after the close of the exhibition.
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