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Yale Agrees To Return Machu Picchu Artifacts

November 21, 2010

The president of Peru said Friday that Yale University has agreed to return thousands of artifacts that had been taken away from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu almost a hundred years ago.

Just hours after Peru’s announcement, the university issued a statement expressing agreement with the results of its talks with Peru. The artifacts have been at the center of a long dispute for years, with Peru filing a lawsuit against the university in a US court.

Peruvian president Alan Garcia said a deal was reached with Yale that would see the return of more than 4,000 artifacts, including pottery, textiles and bones, early in 2011 after an inventory of the objects can be completed.

The agreement was reached after Yale’s representative, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, visited Peru to discuss finding a way to end the dispute.

“We are very pleased that Yale University has responded so positively,” Garcia said at the Government Palace.

According to Garcia, Zedillo said Yale decided to return all artifacts that were taken from Machu Picchu by scholar Hiram Bingham III from 1911 to 1915.

The university, in a statement, said it “is very pleased with the positive developments in the discussions” with Peru.

“It has always been Yale’s desire to reach an agreement that honors Peru’s rich history and cultural heritage and recognizes the world’s interest in ongoing public and scholarly access to that heritage,” the statement said.

Garcia and the Peruvian government had launched an aggressive international media campaign in recent weeks to pressure Yale into doing what’s right with the artifacts. Garcia even sent US President Barack Obama a letter asking for his help in the matter.

Peru has been trying to get the artifacts back for years. The suit to get the objects back was filed against Yale in 2008 arguing that the university violated Peruvian law by exporting items without getting permission from the government and by refusing to return them.

Yale said that it had returned dozens of crates with artifacts in 1921 and that Peru knew the university would retain other pieces.

In 2007, the two sides agreed to give Peru legal title to the artifacts. The pieces were to travel in a joint exhibit and then be sent to a museum and research center in Peru’s ancient Incan capital of Cuzco. Yale was to pay for the traveling exhibit and partially funded the museum.

But Peru backed out of the deal because of a dispute over how many of the artifacts were to be returned.

Garcia said he would ask San Antonio Abad University in Cuzco to take temporary custody of the objects when they are brought back. He will ask Peru’s Congress to establish a special budget to create a museum and research center in Cuzco as a permanent home for the collection.

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