NEW YORK (AP) _ When archeologist Ian Graham heard last fall that a U.S. art collector planned to sell a 1,000-year-old Mayan artifact, he thought immediately of the saw marks on the front of a limestone monument he unearthed in Guatemala in 1971.

The 7 1/2-foot monument of a standing man was missing a rectangular section that had once decorated its chest. The one about to be sold sounded a lot like the stolen fragment.

``I knew that that was the piece,'' said Graham, who works at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

He immediately notified the Guatemalan consulate, which announced today in New York that the piece had been recovered and would be returned soon to its Central American homeland.

``For us, it's an invaluable treasure because it is a part of our history,'' said Guatemalan Consul General Fabiola Fuentes Orellana. ``It's priceless.''

Graham discovered the damaged statue in 1971 in northern Guatemala. Where its carved stone chest ornamentation should have been, he found just the flat surface left by thieves' saws. The chest piece had probably been stolen about five years earlier, along with other items, he said.

The Guatemalan consulate had its lawyers alert U.S. Customs. Howard Spiegler, a lawyer for the Guatemalan government, then spoke to the collector, who agreed to return the piece, Spiegler said.

Spiegler would not discuss how the American collector, whom he did not identify, had obtained the artifact. Neither he nor Graham could estimate the value of the recovered piece.