Woman finds priceless 2,000-year-old Mayan vase in Maryland thrift store

A Washington, D.C. woman paid US$3.99 (about C$5.50) for a Mayan vase (pictured front) that she discovered on the clearance rack at a thrift store in Clinton, Wash. X @emoctezumab

Most dedicated thrifters usually find junk on the clearance rack, but one Washington, D.C., woman discovered a link to ancient history when she purchased a 2,000-year-old Mayan vase.

The priceless artifact bought by Anna Lee Dozier in a Clinton, Maryland, thrift store came at a bargain, costing only US$3.99 (C$5.50).

Officials said the vase is believed to have been made by Indigenous Mayan people in Mexico between 200 and 800 CE.

Dozier, who told WUSA9 she purchased the vase five years ago, said she did not know the artifact was the real thing.

She said the vase looked “old-ish” and she suspected it to be a 20- or 30-year-old tourist reproduction of Mayan-style pottery. Dozier liked the vase anyway and decided to bring it home.

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The vase stayed in Dozier’s residence until January of this year, when she visited Mexico’s Museum of Anthropology and realized the museum’s Mayan pottery looked strikingly similar to the one that she thrifted.

Dozier said she asked an employee at the Museum of Anthropology how she could go about repatriating her thrifted vase.

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The staff member told Dozier it was a common question but seemed “skeptical” of her inquiry.

Regardless, Dozier contacted the U.S. embassy with details about the vase.

Dozier later learned the vase is, in fact, a ceremonial urn from the ancient Mayan community.

On Tuesday, Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S., Esteban Moctezuma Barragán, thanked Dozier for her “generosity” in repatriating the artifact.

He said the vase would be reintegrated in the country’s Museum of Anthropology, alongside other Mayan antiques.

Anna Lee Dozier (centre) pictured with the director of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, DC., Armando Arriazola (left), and Esteban Moctezuma Barragán (right). Dozier’s Mayan vase was repatriated to Mexico and will be displayed in the country’s Museum of Anthropology. X @emoctezumab

Dozier told WUSA9 she’s “thrilled” to have repatriated the vase.

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“I would like it to go back to its rightful place and to where it belongs,” she said.

Dozier admitted she wanted the artifact “out of my home” because she has three young sons and would have been “petrified that after 2,000 years, I would be the one to wreck it!”

She is not the only person to ever find a priceless, historical object for sale in a thrift store. In 2018, an art collector in Texas discovered a 2,000-year-old Roman marble bust at her local Goodwill and bought it for $35. The bust formerly resided inside a full-scale model of a villa from Pompeii in Aschaffenburg, Germany, but was stolen from the country during the Second World War.

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