March 2, 2006

Peru says will sue Yale to recover Inca artifacts

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Peru plans to sue Yale University to
recover thousands of artifacts excavated from Machu Picchu more
than 90 years ago, after negotiations broke down and the sides
accused each other this week of bad faith.

Peru is seeking the return of some 4,900 artifacts from the
Inca citadel, including ceramics, cloths and metalwork. Peru
says they were lent to Yale for 18 months in 1916, but the New
Haven, Connecticut, university has kept them ever since.

"Yale does not recognize the Peruvian state's ownership of
these artifacts," Peru's Ambassador to Washington, Eduardo
Ferrero, said in a statement. He complained that after three
years of talks, Yale officials were not acting in "good faith."

The statement said U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham had
originally been given permission to export the items on the
understanding that they were on loan and would be returned.

The university said in a statement sent to Reuters on
Thursday that it had submitted a revised proposal last week for
a settlement that would include returning many of the objects.

"We are disappointed that the government has rejected this
proposal and is apparently determined to sue Yale University,"
the statement said. It said the collection was legally
excavated and exported "in line with practices of the time."

"We are disappointed that the government of Peru has broken
off negotiations before the upcoming elections in Peru, instead
of working out the framework for a stable and long-term
resolution," it said. Peru holds elections in April.

The statement said Yale had proposed to work with the
government of Peru to set up parallel exhibitions of Inca
objects at Yale and at a new museum to be built in Peru.

Peru has been seeking to retrieve the artifacts now because
it aims to put them on public display in 2011 for the centenary
of Machu Picchu's rediscovery by Bingham.

Peru's ambassador said the latest Yale proposal was
unacceptable because it did not recognize Peru's ownership of
the items. "(Yale) maintains that these archeological artifacts
belong to humanity, but at the same time it is trying to
appropriate them as part of its collection," Ferrero said.

"The Peruvian government ... will bring a suit against Yale
University before the American courts," Ferrero said.

Bingham, a Yale alumni, found Machu Picchu in the 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.

Machu Picchu 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 site attracts
half a million tourists every year.

(Additional reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima)