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Country Summary for COSTA RICA

I.  Relevant Legislation
II.  Regulated Cultural Property


'National Archaeological Property'—=movable and/or immovable property produced by indigenous cultures that preceded or were contemporary with the establishment of the Hispanic culture in the national territory, as well as human remains, flora and fauna related to those cultures. (Law No. 6703 of 1981, Art. 1)

'Historic/Architectural Heritage'—Costa Rica historic/architectural heritage includes immovable property with cultural or historic significance, whether publicly or privately owned, and declared such by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports pursuant to this law. Included as part of the immovable property, monument or site are the fixed installations found on them.(Law No. 7555 of 1995, Arts. 2 & 6)

'Archaeological Sites (without declaration pursuant to Law No. 7555)'—places where, through archaeological studies, it is shown that pre-Columbian remains are present. The importance of these sites varies depending on the characteristics of the remains and the value conferred on them, based on an in-depth knowledge of the cultures that inhabited the area. (Decree No. 28174 of 1999, Art. 2(a))

'Sites with cultural value declared through executive decree, pursuant to Law No. 7555'—archaeological sites that have been defined and added to the historic heritage through executive decree, pursuant to the procedures established in the Law on the Historic/Architectural Heritage, Law No. 7555 of October 20, 1995. (Decree No. 28174 of 1999, Art. 2(b))

'Important Archaeological Sites'—sites with cultural traces, architectural structures that are feasible to analyze, and/or a cultural stratigraphy;
Sites where cultural traces and/or architectural structures cannot be defined, but that provide data on ancient groups: (Decree No. 28174 of 1999, Ch. I, Art. 2(i))

'Unimportant Archaeological Sites'—sites that do not have the aforementioned characteristics, have insufficient archaeological evidence, are altered to a great extent or whose characteristics do not allow information to be obtained from them. (Decree No. 28174 of 1999, Art. 2(j))


The Public Registry of National Archaeological Property will be created as a unit of the National Museum and supervised by the National Archaeological Commission ("CAN"). (Law No. 6703 of 1981, Art. 16)

Property declared of historic/architectural interest will be registered in a special registry to be opened at the Ministry, under the Cultural Property Center. (Law No. 7555 of 1995, Art. 12)

Collectors and holders of archaeological objects are granted a six-month period starting when this law goes into effect to submit an inventory of their collections to the Public Registry of National Archaeological Property, for the exclusive purpose of identifying it. This inventory will be done under oath and pursuant to Art. 17 of this Law. (Law No. 6703 of 1981, Art. 6)

All owners of archaeological objects are required to present them to the Public Registry of National Archaeological Property to be registered within the period set forth in Article 6 of this law [six-month period], under penalty of losing their rights to be bailees. Said Public Registry has the power, ex officio, to examine the objects submitted to verify them…Any archaeological object not presented to the Public Registry of National Archaeological Property will become the property of the National Museum. (Law No. 6703 of 1981, Art. 17)

[By Full Court decision, special session No. 19 at 9:00 a.m. on March 25, 1983, this Article was declared partially inapplicable, inasmuch as it includes the private property listed in item ONE of this decision based on form.] [See also, Full Court decision, special session No. 34 at 2:00 p.m. on April 28, 1989.]

[All] archaeological specimens discovered by associations and/or individuals, whether Costa Rican or foreign, will be registered with the National Museum. (Law No. 7 of 1938, Art. 24)

Relevant State Agencies

The State has the duty to preserve Costa Rica historic/architectural heritage. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports is the highest authority in these matters. (Law No. 7555 of 1995, Art. 3)

This Law creates the National Archaeological Commission, consisting of a representative from each of the following institutions: National Museum, University of Costa Rica, Historic Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, National Commission on Indigenous Affairs and the Ministry of Public Education. (Law No. 6703 of 1981, Art. 4)

III.  Export Restrictions

IV.  Ownership Rights and Restrictions

V.  Violations, Penalties and Sanctions

VI.  International Conventions and Bilateral Agreements
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Country Contact
for Cultural Property
Licda. Marlin Calvo Mora
Chief, Department for Cultural Property Protection
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
Apdo: 749-1000 San José, Costa Rica
Ph: (506) 2296 9369 x 427
F: (506) 2257 4420