(Mexico City) The United States has returned to Mexico a giant stone statue, known as the “Earth Monster”, dating to the pre-Columbian Olmec civilization, Mexican authorities have announced.

The elaborately carved statue weighs more than a ton and measures nearly 1.8 meters high and 1.5 meters wide, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a statement.

“Our Consul Jorge Islas in New York confirms to me that Mexico’s most wanted Olmec coin has been recovered and is about to return home where it should never have come from,” tweeted the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard.

As part of the Mexican government’s efforts to save historical heritage taken out of the country, nearly 10,000 items have been recovered since 2018, authorities said.

The Olmec civilization predated those of the Maya and Aztecs, and its craftsmen were known for carving colossal stone heads, statues, and vertical slabs.

The institute estimated that the statue was created between 800 and 400 BC. J. -C.

Known as Monument 9 of Chalcatzingo and discovered in the Mexican state of Morelos (center), the bas-relief piece is believed to depict an “Earth monster”, a creature that often appears in Olmec iconography, according to the ‘INAH.

The coin’s open jaw symbolizes access to the underworld and “over its mouth is projected a sequence of three concentric bands, representing cruciform access to a cave,” the institute added.

Although it is not known when or how it was illegally taken from Chalcatzingo, “it is known that it was first unveiled to the public in 1968, by archaeologist David Grove, in the journal American Antiquity.

From this, it is estimated that by the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, it was already in the United States,” the statement said. New York authorities found the sculpture, but the document does not specify where.