A first set of artifacts taken from Machu Picchu in the early 1900s made its way back to Peru yesterday, after being housed at Yale University for nearly a century. The set of 363 objects and 1,000 fragments is part of a collection of over 45,000 artifacts that will return to Peru over the next two years, under an agreement signed last November between Yale and the Peruvian government.
The pieces, which include ceramics and bones, were found by archaeologist Hiram Bingham when he “discovered” the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911. A Yale lecturer who later became a U.S. senator, Bingham took the artifacts—supposedly on loan—to Yale University after expeditions in 1912 and 1915. The Peruvian government has long lobbied for their return as objects of national patrimony, twice filing a suit and last summer launching an international campaign that included an appeal to U.S. President Barack Obama and the soliciting of help from Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. Peruvian President Alan García said of their return, “We are proudly satisfied.”
The objects arrived in Lima’s airport on Wednesday morning and were transferred to the presidential palace a few hours later for a formal reception. A large security operation, including 600 police officers, was involved in the transfer. The objects will remain in Lima for about a week before settling into their final home at the newly-established San Antonio Abad University-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture in Cuzco. The universities will jointly conduct research and facilitate related student and faculty exchanges.
A second shipment of objects is scheduled to take place in December 2011, with all artifacts returning by the end of 2012, said Peru's Culture Minister Juan Ossio.
After more than 90 years, Yale University has agreed to return 363 ancient artifacts excavated by Hiram Bingham, who is accredited with discovering Machu Picchu in Peru. According to the Ministry of Culture, the 363 Inca pieces that Bingham excavated will first be exhibited in Lima’s Museo de la Nacion in March 2011, and then will be moved to Cusco’s Casa Concha. The rest of the items will be returned by 2012.
The agreement came after national and international campaigns, a lawsuit and negotiations between delegations. The efforts even sought out help from Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.
Although a memorandum of understanding was signed between Yale and President Alan García in 2007 for the return of the artifacts, problems arose when former Peruvian first lady Eliane Karp did not agree to the terms. She wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times that Peru would only receive a limited amount of the original artifacts, when in fact the Peabody Museum at Yale University would retain the rest of the artifacts, supposedly numbering 46,332 in total.