Image source, EPAImage caption, The artefact disappeared from the Mayan site of Piedras Negras in the 1960s

A private collector has handed over a Mayan artefact to Guatemala following negotiations after plans were made to auction the piece in 2019.

The artefact depicts the head of an ancient ruler wearing a mask in the form of a bird of prey.

It disappeared from the Mayan site of Piedras Negras in the 1960s.

The piece reappeared in Paris in 2019 during an auction, but Guatemala objected and presented evidence calling for the artefact to be returned.

The sale was suspended and negotiations took place between the private collector, Manichak Aurance, the French and Guatemalan governments, and Unesco.

Ms Aurance opted to voluntarily return the fragment – which depicts an ancient ruler who acceded to the throne in the year 729 AD – to Guatemala, Unesco said in a statement.

It was returned during a ceremony in Paris on Monday.

"The voluntary handover of this fragment of a Mayan stela to its homeland in Guatemala showcases the evolution of the international environment in favour of the return of emblematic cultural objects and artefacts to their homelands," Audrey Azoulay, Unesco director-general, said in the statement.

The artefact will soon be sent to the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Guatemala City, where it will be on display to the public.

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To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Marcelo Canuto, co-director of La Corona Archaeological Project, describes the importance of the find