OTTAWA — Two smuggled marine fossils dating back to over 200 million years ago will be returned to China, according to the Chinese Embassy in Canada.
The fossils are among the heritage objects to be returned to China at an official ceremony on Wednesday.
One of the fossils is of a 220-million-year-old Saurichthys, an extinct ray-finned predatory “lizard fish” with a long snout from the Triassic period that was about one meter (3.3 feet) long and looked like the modern pike.
Canadian experts believe it came from Guizhou province in southwest China, and was intercepted by Canada Border Services Agency officials in the Canadian city of Edmonton — reportedly labeled as a “stone carving” -- in November 2009.
The other Chinese fossil is of an Ichthyosaur, which looked like a modern-day dolphin and is believed to have originated from the early Triassic period, between 252 and 247 million years ago. Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers intercepted the fossil in Calgary in July 2013.
A pair of carved wooden roof supports from southwestern China is also being returned at the request of China, which claims these objects as its cultural property. Their repatriation is being implemented under Canada’s Cultural Property Export and Import Act.
The legislation, which Canada passed as a signatory to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, makes it illegal to bring into Canada any cultural object of importance for archaeology or other reasons that has been illegally exported from another state party to the convention, which includes China.
Since 1997, Canada has returned illegally exported cultural property to 12 different states on 21 occasions, according to a backgrounder from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
“Canada recognizes that the illicit import and export of cultural property impoverishes the heritage of a country, and we will continue our efforts to prevent this activity,” Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement in Beijing last week.