January 31, 1999
Tourist tip-offs lead to artifact haul in Mexico

                  MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -- Tip-offs by tourists have led to the recovery
                  of nearly 40 priceless pre-hispanic artifacts being hawked along a highway in
                  Mexico's central Hidalgo state, justice officials said on Sunday.

                  Mexico's attorney-general's office (PGR) said the country's National
                  Institute for Anthropology and History has identified the 39 archaeological
                  artifacts as original objects dating from before the Spanish conquest of the
                  region 500 years ago.

                  Officials believe the objects came from the giant Pyramids of Teotihuacan,
                  just outside Mexico City.

                  The PGR said in a statement that a number of tourists had come forward
                  saying they had been offered the chance to buy genuine archaeological

                  That and information from a witness led investigators to the haul, the PGR
                  said in a statement.

                  Police finally located the suspect "at kilometre 68 on the Mexico-Tulancingo
                  highway" in Hidalgo. He fled as police approached, dumping three plastic
                  bags of artifacts.

                  "We have been able to recover a lot containing 39 original prehispanic
                  pieces of incalculable value," the prosecutor's office said.

                  The hoist included four ceramic candelabras, three decorated earthenware
                  boxes, a figurine mould, a stone pestle and the handle of an incense burner, it

                  Police are still looking for the traffickers involved in the racket.
                  Archaeological objects in Mexico are protected under its federal law on
                  monuments and archaeological zones.

                   Copyright 1999 Reuters.