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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A sculpture of a Mayan warrior that sold for more than $4 million at a Paris auction house this week is a fake, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said.
The masked, stone figure, sold by a private collector, was billed as an impressive piece of Pre-Columbian art and was believed to be a unique work dating from around 550 to 950 A.D. It sold for 2.9 million euros ($4.1 million) on Monday.
But Mexican experts at the institute who studied the auction catalog said the piece, a warrior holding a shield and weapon and wearing a turban-like hat, had been made recently and was carefully carved to give an ancient appearance. Another 66 pieces in the auction also were fakes, they said.
"The figure tries to recreate the Pre-Columbian features of the Maya region in southeastern Mexico but the height, the posture of the flexed legs and the boot straps are not characteristic of this culture," the institute said in a statement.
Mexico's Foreign Ministry said it had contacted the French government prior to the auction to alert it to the fraud.
Reporting by Armando Tovar and Robin Emmott; Editing by Bill Trott