December 10, 2008

Peru sues Yale over Incan finds

The government of Peru has sued Yale University in the U.S. courts seeking the return of Incan mummies, bones and pottery excavated decades ago.

Hiram Bingham III, a Yale lecturer in South American history and future U.S. senator from Connecticut, rediscovered the city of Machu Picchu, high in the Andes, in 1911. The Peruvian lawsuit claims that many of the most significant artifacts Bingham removed from the site remain at Yale, violating his agreement with the government, The Hartford Courant reported.

Peru began its efforts to recover the Bingham finds seven years ago. An agreement to return 300 pieces broke down because Yale wanted to keep bone fragments for up to 99 years for detailed study.

The Peruvian government has support from the U.S. National Geographic Society, which sponsored Bingham's second and third expeditions to Machu Picchu. Those expeditions had the support of Peru, which the first, sponsored by Yale, did not, the lawsuit says.

The government is seeking a declaration that it owns the artifacts and any profits Yale has made by exhibiting them.