06/20/2012 11:11 am ET Updated Jun 20, 2012

Venezuela Claims 35-Ton Rock In German Garden Was Taken Illegally, Demands It Be Returned

Ancient cultures laying claim to their ancestors' antiquities is nothing new. The Egyptians have attempted to reclaim artifacts from ancient Egypt stored in museums around the world, as have the Grecians, Native Americans, and a slew of others. But what if that artifact is as solid as a rock and weighs 35 tons?

Venezuela, home to the indigenous Pémon Indians, is asking for precisely such an artifact to be returned from Germany. Newser reports artist Wolfgang von Schwarzenfeld came across the gigantic boulder and shipped it to Germany in 1997.

Schwarzenfeld maintains the rock was obtained legally and can prove it, pointing to 14 official documents on the project's website. The Pémon disagree. "[Schwarzenfeld] used the armed forces and at that time we were scared of the military," said Melchor Flores to Venezolana de Televisión, Venezuela's state-owned station. "They took advantage of that to walk over us and over our culture and wisdom, because to us wisdom comes from our ancestors."

A group of the Pémon believe the rock is an incarnation of their "grandmother," and that separating the boulder from its natural habitat will cause terrible disasters. The Guardian notes that after the boulder was moved, natural disasters in Venezuela have included a mudslide in 1999 that killed 20,000 people, poor crop harvests, and fish disappearing from rivers.

Now known as part of the Global Stone Project, the rock sits in Berlin's Tiergarten park. NPR reports it has been inscribed with the word "love" in seven different languages.

PHOTOS of the Global Stone Project:



Global Stone Project