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Peru Stolen Artifacts Returned

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WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - U.S. authorities returned 14 stolen and looted paintings and artifacts to Peru on Thursday, including four archaeological items more than 2,000 years old.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials turned over the items at a ceremony at the Peruvian Embassy, the agency said in a statement.

The items were recovered in five investigations in New York; West Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware; and Houston and Austin, Texas.

The items are:

-- nine 18th century religious paintings from Peru's Cusco region;

-- a pre-Columbian Chimu-Inca double-chambered vessel that whistles when it contains liquid;

-- a colonial-era monstrance, used to display the consecrated Eucharist;

-- an ancient textile that may have been used as a woman's belt;

-- a ceramic jar from the Moche culture;

-- and a bronze ceremonial blade used by Incan and pre-Incan cultures.

The objects had been removed in violation of a 1997 U.S. - Peru agreement. The accord restricts the importation of pre-Columbian artifacts and colonial-era religious objects to the United States without proper documents. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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