Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ancient Peruvian Artwork Found in London

LONDON (AP) -- Fashioned from a sheet of embossed gold and centuries old, a prized headdress renowned as Peru's equivalent of the "Mona Lisa" has been seized by police.

With a feline face at its center and eight curving tentacles, the ancient artifact -- which collectors claim could be among Peru's most valuable treasures and worth close to $2 million -- has been kept from public view for as along as a decade. Police said Thursday that it was found hidden in a dusty cabinet of a London law firm.

Specialist art detectives seized the antiquity in a raid on the central London lawyer's office after a lengthy investigation into looted works, the capital's Metropolitan police said.

Officers said the golden headdress was made in the image of an ancient sea god and could date back to around 700 A.D., making it a prized example of artwork by the Mochica civilization that inhabited northern Peru.

Detective Constable Michelle Roycroft said the work had been seized on Monday, and that officers hoped to hand the valuable over to Peruvian authorities at a ceremony at London's Scotland Yard on Aug. 29.