Woman's $3.99 Thrift Store Find Is Priceless Mayan Artifact

Vase purchased in Maryland is actually ceremonial urn dating back 2K years
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2024 8:51 AM CDT

Five years ago, Anna Lee Dozier was browsing the shelves of the 2A Thrift Store in Clinton, Maryland, when she stumbled upon an interesting find in the clearance section. "It looked old-ish, but I thought maybe 20, 30 years old and some kind of tourist reproduction thing, so I brought it home," she tells WUSA9 of the decorated but faded vase she picked up for $3.99 (check out a photo here). The vessel sat in Dozier's home until this past January, when she spotted something that caught her attention while on a business trip to Mexico. There, while visiting the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, Dozier spied artifacts that bore a striking resemblance to her vase back home.

She returned to Maryland and sent photos and dimensions of her purchase to the US Embassy, as museum staff had advised her to do. It turns out her vase was actually a priceless ceremonial urn used by the Mayan people, dating back to sometime between AD200 and AD800. Dozier kind of freaked out when she found out, noting she then wanted it "out of my home, because I have three little boys and I ... was petrified that after 2,000 years, I would be the one to wreck it." On Monday, Dozier, a human rights advocate, turned the vase back over to its native land in a ceremony in which she noted, "Human rights extend to culture and history."

"She recognized that a whole country, a whole culture cares about it, and we are deeply in gratitude (to) her," Mexican Ambassador Esteban Moctezuma Barragan said. The vase will be shipped to Mexico's Museum of Anthropology, where it will be examined further, then sent to be displayed in one of the nation's museums. UPI notes that a similar situation played out last year in Virginia, when another vase scooped up at a Goodwill outlet for $3.99 was found to have been designed by the late Carlo Scarpa for Italian company Venini. That vase was auctioned off for nearly $110,000. (More discoveries stories.)

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