Thrift store shopper bought an ‘old-ish’ vase for $3.99. It turned out to be a priceless 2,000-year-old Mayan artifact

Anna Lee Dozier purchased a priceless ancient Mayan artifact, pictured, at a Maryland thrift store for less than $5. (Anna Lee Dozier)

It’s the find of the millennium - well, two. It turned out to be much more. The vase dated back 2,000 years, and her

Anna Lee Dozier knack for second-hand shopping near her Washington, DC, home paid off big time. She was in a Maryland thrift store in 2019 and found a vase on the clearance rack for just $3.99.

“I saw this vase, and I assumed it was like a tourist reproduction,” Dozier told The Independent. “It did look old, but I was thinking a 20- or 30-year-old tourist reproduction.”

It turned out to be much more. The vase dates back two millennia. Her thrifty find was, in fact, priceless.

Anna Lee Dozier purchased a priceless ancient Mayan artifact, pictured, at a Maryland thrift store for less than $5. (Anna Lee Dozier)
Anna Lee Dozier purchased a priceless ancient Mayan artifact, pictured, at a Maryland thrift store for less than $5. (Anna Lee Dozier)

For five years after finding the vase on the clearance rack, Dozier kept the vase at home, she said, not thinking twice about it until she went on a trip Mexico’s Museum of Anthropology in January. There, Dozier said she saw vases that reminded her of her thrift store find, so she asked the staff what to do if she might have an artifact.

The museum staff told her to contact the US embassy.

“I came back to DC not thinking it could really be something, and I didn't want to bother the embassy, so I googled some professors who were experts on Mayan or Mexican history,” she told The Independent. When no one responded, Dozier reached out to the embassy, where staff asked her to send detailed pictures of the vase.

A month later, Dozier learned it was a ceremonial urn from the Mayan community dating anywhere from the year 200 to 800.

After learning she had thrifted a priceless, ancient artifact, Dozier was connected with the Cultural Institute of Mexico, where a ceremony was held Monday for the vase’s return. It will now make its way to Mexico’s Museum of Anthropology for analysis.

Dozier, who works as a human rights advocate for Mexico’s Indigenous communities, said she was glad to be a part of the vase’s journey home.

“Human rights extend to culture and history,” Dozier said at the event on Monday.

Dozier isn’t the first to accidentally stumble upon an ancient artifact.

In 2017, an Italian marble expert discovered a 2,000-year-old Roman mosaic was being used as a coffee table in a Manhattan apartment for the last 50 years.

The apartment owners thought nothing of it when they purchased the table from an Italian noble family in the 1960s, they said at the time. It has since been returned to the Italian government.