A nearly 3,000-year-old carving stolen more than four decades ago from a remote area of southern Mexico has been recovered in France.

The Olmec carving dating to around 900 B.C. had been chipped off the rock face where it was discovered, sometime between its discovery in 1968 and 1972, when the initial research team returned to the area. It resurfaced recently in France under unclear circumstances.

Dominique Michelet, a French archaeologist at the CNRS research center involved in recovering the piece, said Thursday the bas relief is believed to represent a priest. Michelet wouldn't say how it was found.

It will be returned to Mexico for restoration and public display.

The Olmec are best known for their enormous carved heads and are considered one of the founding cultures of Mesoamerica.