Puerto Rican archaeologists on Monday accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of illegally shipping two dozen newly discovered pre-Columbian artifacts off the island without permission.
Diana Lopez, a University of Puerto Rico archaeologist, said the Army Corps should be fined for sending ceramic pieces, stone tools and bones, which may date from 600 A.D. to 1500 A.D., to Atlanta for testing without approval from a local archaeology council.
"They never told us that they were going to take those pieces," said Miguel Rodriguez, a member of the council who claimed such tests could have been done on the island.
Jose Rosado, chief of the corps' San Juan construction office, has promised that engineers will return the pieces to Puerto Rico once tests determine their origin and value. Calls and e-mails to his office went unanswered Monday.
The artifacts were discovered earlier this month when an Army Corps team began work on a dam project in southern Puerto Rico. Archaeologists said the find could shed light on most aspects of Indian life in the region, from sacred rituals to eating habits.
They called for a halt to the corps' heavy digging, which they warned could expose the pre-Colombian site to wind and rain.