December 1, 2005
Peru to sue Yale for Machu Picchu treasures
By Robin Emmott
LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Peru plans to sue Yale University
for the return of 4,900 artifacts taken from Machu Picchu, the
fabled Inca citadel, by a U.S. explorer nearly a century ago,
the government said on Thursday.
Peru's National Culture Institute, or INC, said the
artifacts, which include Inca ceramics, cloths, metalwork and
human bones, were lent to Yale for 18 months in 1916, but the
New Haven, Connecticut, university has made them part of its
"Unfortunately, this has to be resolved via the courts
because Yale claims ownership and doesn't want to give these
artifacts back," INC Director Luis Lumbreras told Reuters.
"We're not talking about ancient masterpieces, but they are
emblematic of Peruvian culture and by law we are required to
seek their return," Lumbreras said, adding Peru still had the
1916 loan document.
Officials from Yale's anthropology department were not
immediately available for comment. The university has argued it
is the legal owner of the artifacts and allows thousands of
people to view them every year, inspiring many to visit Machu
Lumbreras said the lawsuit would be filed in Connecticut
state court in the next few months, but a higher, international
tribunal may make the final decision.
Peru was seeking to retrieve the artifacts now because it
aimed to put them on public display in 2011 for the centenary
of Machu Picchu's rediscovery by U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham.
Bingham, a Yale alumni, found Machu Picchu in the southern
Andes under thick forest in 1911. The pre-Columbian ruins of an
entire city were essentially forgotten, perched on a mountain
saddle 8,400 feet above sea level near the city of Cuzco.
Machu Picchu was probably the sanctuary of Inca Emperor
Pachacutec and lay at the heart of the Inca empire, which
dominated South America from Colombia to Chile until being
toppled by Spanish conquerors in the 1530s.
The citadel has become South America's best-known
archeological site and attracts half a million tourists every
"The site was ransacked by grave robbers many times over
the centuries, so what was left Bingham would have found in
rubbish dumps or in small burial caves. But that should not
detract from their historical value," Lumbreras said.