Two years ago a gang of looters fell on the palace ruins of the ancient city of Cancuén and made off with an elaborately carved stone altar, complete with writing and the image of a powerful king of the late eighth century A.D. The thieves tried to sell the relic to drug traffickers, the only people in the region with the kind of money they were asking.
According to the society's statement, Guatemalan officials said this might be the first time an entire network of looters and dealers of Maya treasures had been exposed. Four suspects have been arrested and are to stand trial in January. Claudia Gonzáles Herrera, an assistant attorney general in charge of the case, said the arrests show that Guatemala "takes the defense of its ancient Maya heritage seriously."