Machu Picchu and Yale University

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Machu Picchu, Yale University, and Hiram Bingham

About 5,000 artifacts taken from the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru nearly a century ago.

Yale historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, and backed by the National Geographic Society, he returned with large expeditions in 1912 and 1915. Each time, he carted out crates filled with archaeological finds. Yale University is embroiled in an escalating dispute with Peru over the return of treasures from the world-famous Incan site of Machu Picchu that are on display as part of the ivy-league university's permanent collection.

On 21 November 2010, Yale University agreed in principle to the return of the controversial artifacts to their original home in Peru.

Following a compilation of news stories on the controversy.



Yale To Return Incan Artifacts

Agreement With Government Of Peru includes materials excavated by History Professor In 1912.
THE GOVERNMENT OF PERU and Yale University in New Haven have settled a dispute over the return of artifacts taken from Peru in 1912.

September 16, 2007. Source by Edmund H. Mahony, Courant Staff Writer

Machu Picchu, Lost City of the IncasYale University has agreed to return to the government of Peru some of the artifacts and human remains that one of its professors removed from the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu nearly 100 years ago.

The agreement, disclosed in a joint statement by Yale and Peru late Friday night, appears to settle a long-standing dispute between the two. Peru had threatened to sue Yale to recover 300 museum-quality pieces - including skeletons, ceramic pots and jewelry - but the threat was withdrawn over the summer as negotiations progressed over return of the items.

The statement did not specify precisely what will be returned to Peru, but it suggests Yale will give up a substantial portion of the collection, which has been housed in a campus museum. Representatives of Yale and the government of Peru could not be reached Saturday.

The statement said that the government of Peru and Yale had agreed on "a new conceptual framework for collaboration, with a focus on Machu Picchu." The agreement reportedly will encompass not only the materials excavated by Yale history Professor Hiram Bingham in 1912, but other areas of research, such as the plants and wildlife in a national park surrounding the ancient Andean city.

Peru and Yale said they have agreed to jointly sponsor a traveling international exhibition that will feature objects obtained by Bingham during expeditions to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian city of Cuzco, as well as dioramas and multimedia materials developed by the school. Peru will contribute pieces to the traveling exhibition, according to the statement.

In addition, Peru said it will build a new museum and research center in Cuzco. Yale will advise Peru on the center, which will become the home of the traveling exhibition when completed, probably in late 2009.

The statement said that Yale will acknowledge Peru's title to all the excavated objects including the fragments, bones and specimens from Machu Picchu. But it said Yale will share rights with Peru in what was described in the statement as the research collection, part of which will remain at Yale as an object of continuing study.

Once Peru's new museum and research center opens, the statement said, museum quality objects in Yale's possession will return to Peru along with a portion of the research collection.

"This understanding represents a new model of international cooperation providing for the collaborative stewardship of cultural and natural treasures," the statement said.

Machu Picchu was built by Incan emperor Pachacutec in the mid-15th century, at the height of the empire. The stone citadel sits 8,000 feet above sea level and overlooks a forest 345 miles southeast of Lima.

The Incas ruled Peru from the 1430s until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1532, constructing incredible stone-block cities and roads and developing a highly organized society that extended from modern-day Colombia to Chile.

Spanish conquistadors are believed to have found an abandoned Machu Picchu during their conquest of the Incan empire in the middle 1500s. Bingham is believed to have rediscovered it in 1911. The reconstructed ruins at Machu Picchu are now Peru's top tourist attraction.

The find by Bingham, a colorful adventurer who bushwhacked paths across Central and South America, brought the mysteries of the apparently lost Incan civilization to the attention of the Western world. Bingham promised to return to Peru any artifacts he took back to New Haven for study, but not everything made its way back.

Peru began to press for the return of its artifacts - part of its patrimony - in 2001. But in 2005, after unsuccessful negotiations, the administration of then-Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo threatened to sue. Current President Alan Garcia took office before a suit was filed and continued the talks that resulted in the agreement.

For years, Bingham's collection languished in storage at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. It was rediscovered by the husband-and-wife anthropology team of Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar, who put it in a traveling exhibit called "Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas." The exhibition returned permanently to New Haven in 2005, just as the school's dispute with Peru was coming to a head.

Contact Edmund H. Mahony at .

Yale to return Machu Picchu artifacts

LIMA, Peru - Yale University has agreed to return thousands of Inca artifacts taken from Peru's famed Machu Picchu citadel almost a century ago, the government said Saturday.

September 16, 2007. Source Yahoo News

Bronze knife pendant.
 Image courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

"Finally it has been established that Peru is the owner of each one of the pieces," Housing Minister Hernan Garrido Lecca, who led negotiations with Yale, told Lima's Radioprogramas radio.

The New Haven, Connecticut-based university said in a statement on its Web site that some of the pieces will remain there temporarily for research, but did not specify how many.

Peru demanded the collection back last year, saying it never relinquished ownership when Yale scholar Hiram Bingham III rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. All told he exported more than 4,000 artifacts including mummies, ceramics and bones from what has become one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

Yale responded with a proposal to split the collection. Negotiations broke down, and Peru threatened a lawsuit.

Under the agreement, Yale and Peru will co-sponsor first a traveling expedition featuring Bingham's pieces and later a museum in the Andean city of Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital.

"This understanding represents a new model of international cooperation providing for the collaborative stewardship of cultural and natural treasures," Yale said in the statement.

The ruins at Machu Picchu, located on a mountaintop above a lush valley southeast of Lima, are Peru's top tourist attraction.

Yale University Agrees to Return Machu Picchu Artifacts to Peru

Yale University, the third-oldest U.S. college, agreed to return to the government of Peru some of the artifacts archeologist and Professor Hiram Bingham excavated from Machu Picchu almost a century ago.

September 15, 2007. Source by Kelly Riddell and Brian K. Sullivan

Silver shawl pin.
Image courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

Last year, Peru threatened to sue Yale for the 300 museum- quality pieces, consisting of skeletons, ceramic pots and jewelry, dug up from the Incan city in the Andes between 1911 and 1916. Peru said Bingham excavated the land knowing the items he took were on temporary loan and ``would be returned.''

Under a collaboration announced today, Peru and Yale will co-sponsor an exhibition featuring Bingham's artifacts that will travel internationally. A new museum will also be built in Peru where the artifacts will reside after their world tour.

``This understanding represents a new model of international cooperation providing for the collaborative stewardship of cultural and national treasures,'' Yale and Peru said in a joint statement on the Ivy League university's Web site.

Yale had displayed the antiquities at its Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut. It had previously offered to set up parallel collections at Yale and at a museum to be built in Peru, a proposal the government rejected last year.

Stone Citadel

Peru's museum is scheduled to open in 2009 and coincide with the centennial celebration of Bingham's rediscovery of Machu Picchu. Select artifacts will remain at Yale for further research, the two groups said.

Machu Picchu was built by Incan emperor Pachacutec in the mid-15th century, at the height of the empire. The stone citadel, which lies at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), overlooks a forest 345 miles (552.2 kilometers) southeast of Lima.

Spanish soldiers are said to have discovered the abandoned site shortly after the conquest of the Inca Empire in 1532. The site lay forgotten and covered by jungle vegetation for the next four centuries until Bingham rediscovered it in 1911.

The question of ownership over artifacts brought back to U.S. campuses has been a thorny one.

Recently, Harvard reached an agreement with Russia to return bells taken from that country in 1930.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kelly Riddell in Washington at  ; Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at


Peru: Breakthrough on Machu Picchu items

NEW HAVEN - Yale has agreed to turn over to Peru an inventory of artifacts that explorer Hiram Bingham III carted back with him to New Haven after excavating Machu Picchu, the "lost" city of the Incas, in the Andean mountains nearly a century ago.

August 14, 2007. Source The Hartford Courant by Kim Martineau

Ritual offering vessel or "paccha."
Image courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

The breakthrough, which may ultimately help decide who gets to keep the ancient Incan artifacts, was reached this summer under Peru's new president, who appears willing to settle the dispute without resorting to the lawsuit threatened by his predecessor.

Peru's housing minister is expected to lead a delegation of Peruvians to New Haven next month to continue talks with Yale.

"Why should we pursue a lawsuit?" said Vladimír Kocerha, a spokesman for the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, D.C. "Things are progressing. We are talking to them. They are talking to us."

At stake are about 300 museum-quality pieces - skeletons, ceramic pots and jewelry - that Bingham dug up on his historic expedition to Machu Picchu in 1912. The trove awakened the Western world to the wonders of an ancient, highly advanced civilization. A history professor at Yale, Bingham promised to ship his Incan finds back to Peru when he was done studying them, but not all the objects came home as promised.

Peru began to press for the return of its artifacts - a symbol of national identity and pride - after Alejandro Toledo, Peru's first ethnically indigenous president, took office in 2001. For years, Toledo's administration negotiated with Yale but as the end of his term approached in late 2005 Peru threatened to sue, evoking the shameful legacy of European colonial rule in South America. Peru's current president, Alan Garcia, took office last summer before any legal papers were filed.

This spring, Yale President Richard Levin wrote to Garcia suggesting they find a compromise. The response was encouraging. In early June, Garcia appointed his housing minister, Hernán Garrido-Lecca, a Harvard-educated investment banker, to handle the matter.

Later that month Yale's chief counsel visited Peru and Yale agreed to prepare an inventory of the items Bingham excavated. The list should be ready to share with Peru by the end of the year, said Tom Conroy, a Yale spokesman.

Though Yale repeatedly offered to show the artifacts jointly with Peru, Yale refused to acknowledge that Peru had full ownership, fearing restrictions that would be placed on research on the bones and other material, the New York Times has reported. The National Geographic Society, which funded Bingham's 1912 expedition, remains firmly on Peru's side in demanding the repatriation of the artifacts.

Most of Bingham's finds were languishing in storage at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History until they were rediscovered by a husband-and-wife anthropology team at the university, Richard Burger and Lucy Salazar. The couple put together a traveling exhibit, "Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas," that came home to New Haven permanently in 2005, just as the dispute with Peru was coming to a head.

A new solution proposed by Yale would put the exhibition back on the road to raise money to build a museum in Cuzco, former capital of the Inca Empire. Yale would then transfer the artifacts there permanently, while maintaining rights to do research on lesser-quality pieces, the New York Times Magazine reported in June. Yale declined to elaborate on that possibility on Monday.

Peru: Breakthrough on Machu Picchu items

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- Yale University will for the first time provide Peru with an inventory of thousands of artifacts taken from Machu Picchu 90 years ago, Peruvian officials said Thursday, as they work to have the objects returned.

August 10, 2007. Source Reuters

Bone shawl pin adorned with two birds
Image courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

The ruins of Peru's famed Machu Picchu were named last month as one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Negotiations over who owns more than 4,000 pieces of pottery, jewelry and bones from the ancient Inca citadel had stalled are were now progressing, officials said.

"The relationship is moving forward like never before, towards an understanding," said Cecilia Bakula, head of Peru's national institute of culture.

"This has allowed, among other things, for Yale to commit itself to providing a complete inventory of its archeological goods for the first time."

Yale officials declined to comment.

Bakula spoke at an event with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes, who visited Lima to say the United States was returning 350 pre-Colombian artifacts to Peru. The artifacts were recovered in Miami under an anti-smuggling accord between the two countries.

Hughes said she supported the talks between Yale and Peru, which have occurred as museums around the world face demands by countries from Peru to Greece and Egypt to return ancient treasures.

"We are delighted these conversations have taken place and we hope they can be resolved in a satisfactory manner that takes into account the interests of both sides," Hughes said.

Peru says the artifacts were lent to Yale for 18 months. But the university has kept them ever since one of its alumni, U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham, rediscovered Machu Picchu in the Andes in 1911.


Explorer seen in new light

October 13, 2006. Source Yale Daily News by Andrew Mangino, Staff Reporter.

Classic Cuzco-style Inca jar.
Image courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

In May 1916, Hiram Bingham III - one of Yale's first Latin American studies professors and the discoverer of Machu Picchu - pushed through a crowd of Republicans in upstate New York to tell Teddy Roosevelt about his recent change of heart concerning the country he once adored.

"When I was in Peru … I found much that didn't please me," Bingham said to the ex-president. "I found that the claim to American citizenship won no respect ... So I decided that there were pleasanter occupations for an American citizen than exploring in Peru, and I came home."

This story and many other revelations about Bingham's transformation from a leading advocate against imperialism in Latin America to an indifferent possessor of precious Peruvian artifacts will be set forth by Chris Heaney '03 in an article in the October 23 edition of The New Republic, which was obtained in advance by the News.

If accurate, his research would for the first time implicate Yale in the holding of Peruvian artifacts taken illegally from the country. But Yale-Peabody Museum curator Richard Burger said he thinks Heaney's arguments are irrelevant to the debate over artifacts, contextually naive and an attempt at "self-promotion" by Heaney.

Still, Heaney's findings may reinvigorate the Peruvian government's threatened lawsuit against Yale for the return of artifacts Bingham excavated throughout the early 1900s, which the Peruvian government claims were taken out of the country illegally.

In the New Republic article, Heaney argues that Peru clearly has a right to request the return of the relics. Yet last year, when Peru finally asked for the Machu Picchu artifacts to be returned to the country, Yale refused, arguing that too much time had passed since their original excavation and that the artifacts were safer at the Peabody than they would be in Peru.

But in 1914, Bingham had actually promised to swiftly return the artifacts, though he did not follow through on his pledge, Heaney wrote in the article. Instead, Bingham sent a letter to the Peruvian government complaining that the natives appeared to distrust him and his team.

The reason for this sudden onset of resistance, Heaney wrote, was easy to explain.

"During the excitement of the first Yale expedition, Peru's intellectuals, including a passionate and nationalist young Peruvian scholar named Luis E. Valcarcel, began to hound the government to protect the treasures of pre-Columbia ruins from foreign exportation," he wrote. "Bingham wrongly derided these protections as local jealousy and intellectual posturing."

The Society to Protect Historical Monuments, which rose to prominence after Bingham's arrival in Peru, pressured the Peruvian president into decreeing that antiquities uncovered through scientific excavation became the property of the government and their exportation was forbidden.

According to Heaney's article, Bingham continued to purchase and export artifacts from Peru after the decree, despite knowing that customs officials would have to be bribed in order to transport the relics safely to New Haven. Furthermore, some of the artifacts supposedly returned by Yale appeared in the Peabody Museum's online catalog, Heaney wrote.

In reaction to excerpts from Heaney's article, Burger said he did not find any of the claims "particularly interesting" or relevant to future Yale-Peru discussions.

"There's really no way of knowing what happened," Burger said. "We can't call the shipping guy up. We can't call up Bingham … You can make all sorts of allegations, all sorts of speculation."

Burger said he thinks Heaney is going after the figure of Bingham in part to make a name for himself.

But Heaney said he thinks Burger's criticisms "trivialize the seriousness" of his story.

"A story like this doesn't get written for reasons of self-promotion," Heaney said. "This doesn't have to do with me. It has to do with the facts of the article, and I have some serious questions in there that [Yale] has to respond to."

Lucy Salazar, another Peabody curator, said Bingham was well-liked and respected by the Peruvian people, noting that the country still has streets named in his honor. And University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said the Yale administration believes that Bingham's intentions with regard to the antiquities were honorable.

"We believe that Bingham intended to return all the materials he committed to return," she said, according to The New Republic article.

But Terry Garcia, executive vice president of the National Geographic Society, said Heaney's findings support the Society's position that there is no ambiguity in this case.

"Yale not only has a moral but a legal obligation to [return the artifacts]," Garcia said. "We all knew that these objects were being lent for scholarly review and study and that they were going to be returned to Peru, and that's really the sum and substance of this issue."

In recent months, some have speculated that the new government of Peru - which came to power in July - will not be as stubborn as the previous administration in demanding resolution through a lawsuit. But Yale political science professor Susan Stokes said she thinks the nationalistic spirit of the region will keep the Peruvian government from dropping the suit.

University President Richard Levin said Yale has consistently expressed a willingness to negotiate with the Peruvian government. He said the country's former leaders seemed more concerned with "symbolic politics" than practical solutions, and he hopes a resolution can be reached with the new government.

"Yale is seeking to demonstrate leadership in this area, in a way that balances the legitimate interests of Peru against the worldwide interest in the reservation and conservation of these important historical artifacts," Levin said.

Burger also said after speaking with Peruvians in recent weeks, he is hopeful that the two parties will return to table soon in order to bring an amicable end to the almost century-long saga.


Return Peruvian Artifacts
About 5,000 artifacts taken from the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru.

July 28, 2006. Source: The Hartford Courant, Editorial.

Colonial style Inca-bottle.
Image courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

In what appears to be a growing trend, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles recently agreed to surrender ownership of two ancient artifacts that the government of Greece claimed were illegally seized from that country decades ago.

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City reached a similar agreement with the government of Italy for the return of 21 relics, including a 2,500-year-old pot known as the Euphronios krater, that had vanished from their country of origin under suspicious circumstances.

Museum goers will still get the benefit of viewing precious artifacts from other countries, as the settlements contain provisions that allow for long-term loans of other antiquities to the museums. These agreements are perhaps the most notable consequences of a rash of challenges that were launched as a result of a UNESCO resolution signed by the United States to prohibit the illegal removal of cultural treasures.

The resolution passed because many museum collections contain items that were looted from their native countries.

Unfortunately, the trend toward returning ownership has yet to catch on at Yale University, where officials won't let go of about 5,000 artifacts taken from the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru. The pieces have been part of the university's Peabody Museum of Natural History collection since 1912, after they were excavated by Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham.

Evidence shows that the artifacts were on temporary loan to the university and were to be returned. The National Geographic Society, which helped finance Mr. Bingham's expeditions, produced authorizations from the Peruvian legislature citing the terms of the release and letters by Mr. Bingham suggesting his intention not to live by those terms.

Peru's challenge was issued in March under the outgoing presidency of Alejandro Toledo, and was accompanied with a threat of a lawsuit. The new government of President Alan Garcia that was elected only a month ago has yet to say if it intends to pursue the claim against Yale.

Yale officials should nevertheless follow the lead of their counterparts in New York and Los Angeles and honor the original agreement to return Peru's cultural assets.

It's the ethical thing to do.


Disputed collection holds keys to Machu Picchu's secrets

(Left) This large pot is part of the collection of artifacts on exhibit at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., from the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru. Yale scholar Hiram Bingham III rediscovered the city in 1911 and began bringing artifacts to Yale. The Peruvian government wants the artifacts back, saying the nation never relinquished ownership.

June 16, 2006. Source: AP and

Even after being studied for decades, Yale University's collection of relics from Machu Picchu continues to reveal new details about life in the Incan city in the clouds.

The bones tell stories about the health of the Incan people. The metal tools hint at the society's technological advancement. The artifacts help scientists reconstruct ancient trade routes.

Archaeologists say they've even learned that the Incan diet revolved not around the Peruvian staple of potatoes, but was based largely on maize. All this from studying a collection that's nearly a century old - a collection the government of Peru wants back.

Peru says it never relinquished ownership when Yale scholar Hiram Bingham rediscovered the city in 1911 and began exporting artifacts from what has become one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

Peru demanded that Yale return the relics this fall. Then, after a compromise that would have divided the them among museums in both countries broke down, Peru said it intended to sue. No lawsuit has been filed as yet and Yale administrators say they remain confident a deal can be worked out that will resolve the dispute amicably.

Many of the relics are on display at Yale's Peabody Museum. But the collection, which include mummies, ceramics, tools and human bones, has more scientific than aesthetic value, Yale anthropology professor Richard L. Burger said.

"It's not a collection of art objects," Burger said. "If you want to see the most beautiful Incan art objects, you go to the Inca Museum in Cuzco."

The Incas ruled Peru from the 1430s until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1532, constructing incredible stone-block cities and roads and developing a highly organized society that extended from modern-day Colombia to Chile.

The ruins at Machu Picchu, located on a mountaintop above a lush valley 500 kilometers southeast of Lima, are Peru's top tourist attraction.

Bingham, a Yale archaeologist, became the first foreigner to reach Machu Picchu in 1911 and returned to the site in 1912 and 1914. Yale said artifacts from the 1914 expedition were returned long ago and said the current dispute focuses on relics from the 1912 trip.

The Peruvian government maintains that, while Bingham had approval to remove the artifacts, they were essentially on loan to Yale and the country never relinquished legal ownership.

Peru's first lady, Elaine Karp, has pushed hard to have the relics returned, Burger said. Her husband, President Alejandro Toledo, is not eligible for another term, however, and a new government took over after a June 4 runoff election.

Burger said he hopes the new government will resume negotiations.

"We feel strongly that there's enormous scientific importance to the collections," he said. "That has to be a consideration."



Peru dispute has long, murky past
Fate of Incan artifacts found by Hiram Bingham in 1911 may be decided in court

April 14, 2006. Source: Yale Daily News by Andrew Mangino, Staff Reporter

Yale Peabody MuseumHike a mere half-mile up Hillhouse Avenue, take a right on Sachem Street, and a mysterious world 3,500 miles away suddenly emerges: the ancient Inca society at Machu Picchu, Peru.

Unassumingly sandwiched between plain classroom buildings, the Yale Peabody Museum, home to the exhibit, features an epic photo of rolling canyons and ancient clay homes. An Inca Aryballos for holding corn beer sits in a glass case. Three Sapa Incans are dressed in colorful robes. An eerie whisperer utters over the PA system in Quechua, the native Incan language.

On the dark wall, a photograph of Yale historian Hiram Bingham III, who excavated the artifacts and many more from the region in 1911, is pictured as part of the original expedition that, the poster reads, included topographers, medical doctors, a geologist, an osteologist, an archeological engineer and even several Yale students.

But one central part of the story is conveniently missing from the exhibit: a 95-year-old tale of discovery and deceit, world-class research and nationalist movements, politics and pride, ambiguity and conviction. It is the illustrious tale of the ever-changing relationship between Yale and Peru, a partnership that hit its lowest point yet last month when the Peruvian government reiterated its demand for the artifacts to be returned and declared its intention to sue the University in the coming months.

Long before relations turned sour, though, Yale and Peru were close partners. Peru had benefited from the endless publicity Yale was garnering for their country. Meanwhile, Yale researchers had gained an edge over other archeologists, suddenly possessing mysterious artifacts bound to provoke endless intellectual discovery.

In fact, it took a cooperative effort, between Bingham and a Peruvian named Melchor Arteaga, to reach Machu Picchu, the only remaining undiscovered city of the lost Incan empire. And Peruvian academics and indigenous people relished his fascination.

Peruvian President Augusto Leguia granted a 10-year extension to Bingham's efforts, and local newspapers hailed the tourism boom that Bingham's expedition would surely bring, according to Chris Heaney '03, who received a Fulbright Scholarship to live in Peru and write a book on the controversy.

"Where others had seen rubble or tombs for looting, though, Bingham saw perfect white granite stonework and temples recalling the Incas' oldest creation myths," Heaney wrote in a recent Legal Affairs article.

But just as Bingham reached the pinnacle of his popularity in Peru, the showdown that would come 95 years later was subtly foreshadowed. Some Peruvian intellectuals expressed dismay at the exportation of precious Peruvian treasures.

And according to documents obtained by the News, the Peruvian government, too, had no intention of transferring property rights to Yale or to the National Geographic Society, Bingham's co-sponsoring organization. If not immediately, records show that Peru expected everything back.

One document, an agreement signed between Bingham and Peru in 1912, included a caveat that may prove central to impending legal arguments: "The Peruvian Government reserves to itself the right to exact from Yale University and the National Geographic Society of the United States of America the return of the unique specimens and duplicates."

Yale, 95 years later, had a counter-argument. It cited, without specifics, an 1852 civil code in Peru that gave Yale "title to the artifacts at the time of their excavation and ever since."

While many archeological experts agree that Yale has taken great care of the artifacts, few said they support their legal position.

"The position of Yale, as reported, seems a very contradictory one," said famed archeologist Lord Colin Renfrew of Cambridge University. "If it's a loan, then it's legally the property of the lender. I find the whole thing breathtakingly arrogant."

Yet the story had not entered its nearly century-long hibernation yet. In 1921, after Bingham had served as a high-ranking officer in World War I, a Peru consulate invoked the contract, requesting that all the excavated artifacts be returned. Bingham himself had even expressed in a letter obtained by the News in 1915 that artifacts were property of Peru, not Yale.

But Heaney said relations between Peru and foreigners soured in the years during the war. Bingham had become suddenly disappointed in Peru. Yale returned no artifacts from Machu Picchu and a little over half of the essentially worthless boxes of bones obtained in a 1915 expedition elsewhere in Peru. In one sense, the issue was whether Peru could be trusted to care for artifacts still brimming with mystery.

"Peru has a long history of problems in terms of security of its collections," said Yale professor Richard Burger, the Yale-Peabody Museum exhibit curator who helped to resurrect research on the controversial artifacts.

Citing a recent robbery of more than 4,000 artifacts from the Peru national museum, Burger said the law is clearly on Yale's side, but also acknowledged Yale's ability to have preserved them over the past century.

After all, at the time of their introduction to Yale, students on campus may have seen the Peru artifacts as having been rightfully obtained as "treasure" only after a long and tiring struggle by Bingham and his team. In an article published in the News on Jan. 13, 1913, the artifacts are curiously referred to as "trophies" in the headline.

From another perspective, Yale does indeed have much reason to be proud of its unmatched work on the Machu Picchu. Burger, who is largely credited along with his wife for popularizing recent research on the site, said that all students throughout the world who learn about the Incan culture are able to do so much in part due to Yale research.

The question of timing also has rich historical roots. One explanation, as suggested by Roger Atwood, an author on antiquity looting, is the convergence of political, cultural and global factors. Politically, Peru's current first lady, who is of French descent and is relatively unpopular in Peru, has outspokenly advocated for the artifacts. Culturally, Atwood said, there is a counter-globalization feeling among the people that inspires them to support such policies.

And globally, there has been a recent trend of showdowns between universities and countries that claim that their exhibits were looted. But Atwood said the circumstances surrounding Yale's apprehension of the artifacts must be distinguished from looting cases.

"Whatever the standards were, it seems pretty clear to me that Hiram Bingham wasn't looting," Atwood said. "It reminds me [more] of colonial plunder. We know exactly where they are from, and the removal from the place of origin does have this kind of whiff of colonialism to it."

The other explanation is a solution in disguise. In some sense, the recent success of Machu Picchu research in America -- Burger said, "Wherever you go, people are saying I want to go to Machu Picchu" -- lends itself to the idea that Peruvians are in some way envious and looking to expand the very scarce collection of Incan artifacts that currently exists in Peru.

Thomson said Burger's fundamental interest in discovery will likely lead him to devise a creative solution that perhaps concedes Peru's rights to the artifacts but also works out a loan or creative joint venture for the shared benefit of both parties.

Ninety-five years after the relationship between Yale and Peru began, it is at a low point, but an uncertain one. Elections in Peru have entered a runoff, which may elect either a free-market advocate or a nationalist left-wing candidate. And even if the lawsuit is filed, neither party -- given the utter significance of the precious artifacts in question -- will concede easily.



Protesters demand Yale return Machu Picchu artifacts to Peru

May 9, 2006. Source: AP


Lima, Peru --Some 3,000 townspeople from Peru's famed Inca ruins of Machu Picchu marched Tuesday through Cuzco to demand Yale University return relics taken by famed U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham nearly a century ago.

"This is a form of cultural identity for us," said Oscar Valencia, mayor of Aguas Calientes, the jungle-shrouded valley below Machu Picchu, whose residents traveled 40 miles to Cuzco to stage their peaceful protest.

"We are the legitimate heirs for having been born of this soil," Valencia told The Associated Press via telephone.

At issue is the fate of pre-colonial treasures taken from one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

Peru demanded this fall that Yale return the artifacts, which include mummies, ceramics and human bones excavated by Bingham between 1911 and 1914.

The government in March rejected a Yale University proposal to divide thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu among museums in Peru and New Haven, and have threatened to sue the university.

Valencia said the protesters want President Alejandro Toledo to file suit and speed up the process for the return of the artifacts.

Cuzco, 315 miles southeast of Lima in the southern Andes, was the seat of the Inca empire that ruled Peru before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.




Elections could avert Peru's lawsuit

April 12, 2006. Source: Yale Daily News by Andrew Mangino, Staff Reporter

As this week's heated Peruvian presidential election enters a runoff, the government of Peru has not yet filed a lawsuit against Yale for the return of precious Machu Picchu artifacts excavated in the 1910s, casting doubt on the future of the dispute.

Machu Picchu Agricultural terracesNearly a century has passed since Yale historian Hiram Bingham III's discovery of the artifacts that redefined universal understanding of the Incan culture, but archeological experts say the historical record is murky, citing contracts that seem to confirm Peru's right to ask for Bingham's findings to be returned on the one hand and Yale's longstanding custodianship of the artifacts on the other hand. Whether or not Peru will follow through with its promise to sue Yale may hinge on the incoming government's attitudes toward national identity, regional experts said, though there are still a number of complicated legal, ethical and historical questions that must still be answered by both parties.

"We have not been served with a lawsuit," Yale head counsel Dorothy Robinson said on Tuesday. "We remain hopeful that we can achieve an amicable resolution with the Peruvian government."

Current Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo -- the country's first indigenous leader, whose wife was one of the leading advocates of the showdown with Yale -- did not run for re-election. Yet Peru has already hired a top counsel of former President Bill Clinton LAW '73 to represent their case, indicating their intention to sue in spite of the hefty legal fees and changing regime.

With Toledo leaving, the outcome of the runoff between Ollanta Humala, a rising nationalist leader, and either pro-business Lourdes Flores or left-wing ex-President Alan Garcia, will significantly impact Peruvian policy. Although the Peru-Yale conflict has not been a focus of recent candidate debates, Humala is widely expected to strengthen Peru's conviction for the return of the artifacts, while the position of other candidates on the matter is uncertain.

"My expectation is that a totally different government is going to come in, one that will see that it's in their interest to work with Yale in some sort of collaborative effort and that Yale and Peru … can join in some sort of educational initiative and work in creating some sort of museum together," said Richard Burger, a curator of the Yale Peabody Museum and the researcher who, along with his wife, resurrected research on Bingham's excavations. "It's too early to tell what the situation is going to be like in Peru in a few years, but I'm very optimistic."

On Tuesday, a top Peruvian official, who asked not to be named, denied that elections would have any bearing on the lawsuit. He said it is essentially a "state policy" to recover the artifacts from Yale, which will not change with the election of a new leader.

"We don't have any specific dates, but it will be [filed] soon," he said, citing the substantial time required to properly prepare a lawsuit.

Still, Burger said he is still skeptical that the suit will ever be filed in state court.

"Lawsuits are expensive, and my understanding of it is that Peru would have a very weak case," he said, noting that there is a distinction between cases of looting and legal excavation. "The trouble is when you want to go back into an earlier time when there is an earlier set of values and practices."

But critics of the Yale position cite the pair of contracts signed by the then-president of Peru and Bingham on behalf of the university in 1912 and 1916.

In the 1912 agreement obtained by the News, one term of the contract provides for Peru's reserved right to have artifacts "that might be extracted and have been extracted" to be returned to Peru at the government's request. The 1916 agreement stipulates, "Yale University and the National Geographic Society pledge to return, in the term of 18 months from today, the artifacts whose export has been authorized."

A letter written by Bingham and obtained by the News, dated Nov. 28, 1916, indicated that even he believed Peru's legal prerogative was to have all the excavations returned.

"They do not belong to us, but to the Peruvian government, who allowed us to take them out of the country on condition that they be returned in 18 months," Bingham wrote.

Christopher Heaney '03, who received a Fulbright Scholarship to write a book on the Yale-Peru conflict and has lived in Peru since August 2005, said there is a degree of historical judgment that must be used in evaluating the contracts and Peru's alleged request several years after the excavations to return all artifacts.

"From the agreements at the time, it's pretty clear that both Bingham and Peru, at least when these agreements were made, understood that the pieces did belong to Peru and that Peru could ask for them back," he said. "Did Bingham misread the letter from Peru? Did he not see the word 1912?"

Barbara Shailor, Yale's deputy provost for the arts, said that although she believes Yale has a right to the artifacts -- some Yale officials have cited a potentially overlapping civil code or the statute of limitations -- it is important to note the extent to which the artifacts have added to knowledge of Peru across the world.

"They've been brilliantly preserved -- preservation and conservation is something that Yale has done a supremely fine job about -- and certainly the scholarly investigation of the material has been really first-rate," she said.

Yale President Richard Levin, who said he has met with Peruvian Ambassador Eduardo Ferrero, said Yale seeks a compromise with Peru that provides both Peruvians and Yale with "sufficient representation" of the Bingham collection to mount first-class exhibits in both places.

"Our position is that the law actually would support our claim to ownership, but in a way, that's a technical issue," Levin said. "We feel the best solution for the long-term stewardship of these object is to work out a cooperative arrangement."

Hugh Thomson, a well-known British explorer of Machu Picchu, said Burger's research at Yale has "made up for" the Peruvian case that not much work was done on the artifacts for years. But Thomson said the issue also has cultural and political significance.

"It's very much a political issue, but not necessarily in a dishonorable way," he said. "Peru is trying to redefine itself by its Incan past, and Machu Picchu is really the center of the Incan past in some ways. Naturally, it's a hugely emotional subject."

But Roger Atwood, author of a book on antiquity looting, said that while there may be compelling political and cultural demands for the return of the artifacts, Yale should also consider returning the artifacts for the somewhat "colonial" nature of their acquisition and the original legal contracts signed.

"I don't see that the [Peru] case would work if it came to court, but I like to think it suggests ethically that Yale would have some responsibility for handing these pieces back," he said.

Thomson said he hopes the current conflict will resolve itself with a long-awaited solution taking into account the interests of both sides.

"It's quite a complex issue," he said. "I would hope that there could be some sort of partnership between Yale and Peru, where artifacts could be displayed potentially at both places, as well as around the world."



Peru Presses Yale On Relics

March 14, 2006. Source: Hartford Courant by Kim Martineau, Courant Staff Writer

Inca effigy jar from Machu Picchu
Inca effigy jar from Machu Picchu
(Photo: Yale Peabody Museum)

Machu Picchu is more than a symbol of the past. It has become a thriving tourist attraction that Peru wants to capitalize on to improve the life of its people.

That's hard to do when some of Machu Picchu's most important relics are sitting in a museum in another hemisphere. Artifacts that a Yale professor unearthed there more than 90 years ago are now on display at Yale's Peabody Museum. Peru's first lady has accused Yale of profiting from Peru's cultural heritage.

"This is ours," first lady Eliane Karp said Monday. "There is no more colonialism in the 21st century."

Karp and her husband, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, have used their visit to Washington, D.C., to keep Peru's dispute with Yale in the public eye. Toledo discussed the artifacts with President Bush during a working lunch Friday. Though Toledo has flown home to Peru, his wife, a cultural anthropologist, is keeping the pressure on. Karp will meet first lady Laura Bush this morning to tour the National Museum of Women in the Arts - where artifacts currently on loan from Peru, as it so happens, are on display.

Yale Professor Hiram Bingham stumbled on the stone ruins of Machu Picchu in 1911, while bushwhacking his way through the Andean mountains. Once a vacation retreat for Incan royalty, the site had languished for centuries.

On two later expeditions, Bingham dug up dozens of burial caves, finding ceramic vases, jewelry and other artifacts.

The government of Peru signed two "executive decrees" allowing Bingham to ship the artifacts home as long as they were returned.

Some of the material was returned but Yale has kept the rest, claiming title to more than 250 museum-quality pieces under an earlier Peruvian law. Yale has buttressed its position by federal case law involving Peruvian antiquities.

Since November, Peru has been threatening to sue. Yale has offered to collaborate and show the material in both countries. But Peru has refused any deal that does not acknowledge Peruvian title.

The National Geographic Society, which helped fund Bingham's expeditions, says the material clearly belongs to Peru and should be returned.

Yale, for its part, says its Machu Picchu exhibit is not the cash cow Peru may think. "Preserving, restoring and researching the collection over many decades at Yale has cost money," said Tom Conroy, a university spokesman. "The same has been true of creating and mounting the exhibition. Yale resources had to be secured and grants had to be found...It has not been a profitable exhibit - nor was that the design."

Short of inspecting the Peabody's balance sheet, many Peruvians may be unwilling to take Yale's word. The artifacts are also a symbol of national identity and a bridge to a time before the Spanish conquerors.

"Machu Picchu is the main symbol of Peru," Karp said. "It is something the Peruvian people relate to as the pride of their ancestors and their past."



Peru Says It Will Sue Yale Over Machu Picchu Relics (Update3)
March 2, 2006, 15:06 East.
Source: Bloomberg by Patrick Cole (The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Bloomberg).

Hiram Binham 1911The government of Peru said it will sue Yale University, the third-oldest U.S. college, over hundreds of artifacts taken from the ancient city of Machu Picchu nearly a century ago.

Eduardo Ferrero, Peru's ambassador in Washington, said Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham took the artifacts from the Incan city in the Andes between 1911 and 1916 with the understanding that they were on temporary loan and ``would be returned.''

Yale, which has displayed the antiquities at its Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, offered to set up parallel collections at Yale and at a new museum to be built in Peru, which the government rejected.

The Peruvian government was ``surprised'' by ``the position taken by the authorities of such a prestigious university and will soon present a lawsuit in U.S. courts against Yale University,'' Ferrero said in a statement.

Yale joins several noted museums that have been pressured to return artifacts. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art said last month it would return items including a 2,500-year-old vase, which it bought for $1 million in 1972, after the Italian government said it had been looted.

Machu Picchu was built by Incan emperor Pachacutec in the mid-fifteenth century, at the height of the empire. The stone citadel, which lies at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), overlooks a forest 345 miles (552.2 kilometers) southeast of Lima.

Spanish soldiers are believed to have discovered the abandoned site shortly after the conquest of the Inca empire in 1532. The site lay forgotten and covered by jungle vegetation for the next four centuries until Bingham rediscovered it in 1911.

Bingham was a Yale professor who led three expeditions to the site financed jointly by the university and by the National Geographic Society, said Barbara Moffet, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based society.

In a statement released by both the society and the government of Peru, National Geographic said it agrees with the South American country's claims to the artifacts.

'On Loan'

``The artifacts excavated from Peru during these joint expeditions were on loan and should be returned to Peru,'' the statement said.

Bingham was an adjunct professor of Latin American history at Yale when a Peruvian farmer led him to the ruins of the mountain city in 1911, according to the university's Web site. He was later elected governor of Connecticut and served as one of the state's U.S. senators from 1925 to 1933, according to the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.

Yale contends the artifacts were legally excavated and exported ``in line with the practices of the time,'' and that it has clear title to the materials, which include pottery fragments and bones, university spokesman Thomas Conroy said yesterday in a telephone interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at


Peru tells Yale it wants its Machu Picchu treasures back (after 100 years)
February 3, 2006. Source: The Independent Online Edition, UK by Rupert Cornwell in Washington

Yale University is embroiled in an escalating dispute with Peru over the return of treasures from the world-famous Incan site of Machu Picchu that are on display as part of the ivy-league university's permanent collection.

Over the years, there have been fitful attempts to find a solution to the contested ownership. It threatens to come to a head later this year, with the departure from office of Alejandro Toledo, Peru's first indigenous President, who has pledged to recover the treasures before he steps down in July.

The dispute recalls other cases where countries are fighting to retrieve artifacts from museums in other countries - most notably Italy's demand that the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art hand back various classical treasures that Rome says is part of Italy's cultural heritage. The items were allegedly looted from sites in Italy and exported illegally.

The provenance of the Machu Picchu material, which arrived completely openly in the US more than 90 years ago, is far more complicated in legal terms. It is also entangled with issues of Peruvian national identity.

Machu Picchu, the fabled "Lost City of the Incas" built at almost 8,000 feet in the Andes, was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, a colorful figure who was variously explorer, aviator, Yale historian, Governor of Connecticut and later a US Senator.

In a series of expeditions between 1912 and 1915, he sent crates of archaeological finds from the site - including bones, pottery, tools and some silver items - back to Yale, with the permission of the government of the day. The key question is whether the material was made over in perpetuity or merely loaned.


Peru's Battle for Its History
Artifacts removed from Machu Picchu by a Yale professor in 1911 are the focus of a growing furor. The simple -- and just -- solution: Send them home

January 25, 2006. Source: Business Week by Geri Smith.

Machu Picchu: Temple of the Three WindowsMachu Picchu is a magical, mysterious place that for nearly a century has intrigued archaeologists and visitors alike. Perched atop a steep, emerald green peak 8,000 feet high in the Andes in southern Peru, it is reachable only by a long road that zigzags up the slope from the roaring Urubamba river, or by hiking four days along the challenging Inca Trail. One can imagine the excitement when intrepid Yale professor-explorer Hiram Bingham, led there by local peasants in 1911, first glimpsed the jungle-invaded citadel abandoned by the Incas four centuries earlier.

Bingham eagerly surveyed the site over the next five years, clearing away brush and identifying palaces, temples, and a celestial observatory from what is believed to have been a summer palace or ceremonial center for the first Incan emperor, Pachakuteq. Most of its gold and other treasures had been looted around the time of the Spanish conquest, but he unearthed thousands of artifacts and carted them off to New Haven to study.


Peru talks continue as lawsuit looms
University officials hope to reach an agreement to display artifacts both here and in Peru

January 10, 2006. Source Yale Daily News by Tyler Hill.

Machu Picchu: IntihuatanaTop Yale officers and Peruvian government representatives are continuing negotiations regarding artifacts recovered at Machu Picchu and brought to Yale more than 90 years ago, officials said Monday.

Peruvian officials have said that if the negotiations break down, they plan to sue the University for possession of the artifacts, which were excavated in 1911 from the ruins of the ancient Incan city by Hiram Bingham, Class of 1898. As the centennial anniversary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu approaches, the Peruvians have begun seeking the return of the artifacts in earnest. The confidential talks between the University and Peru have remained ongoing for more than two years, said Barbara Shailor, deputy provost for the arts.

Yale President Richard Levin said the University is prepared to share the artifacts with Peru.


Peru wants Machu Picchu artifacts returned
January 5, 2006. Source USA TODAY by Danna Harman.

MACHU PICCHU, Peru — The Incas built their mysterious city here to be closer to the gods. It was placed so high in the clouds, at 7,700 feet, that the conquering Spaniards never found or destroyed it.

Visitors to Machu Picchu see well-preserved ruins hidden among the majestic Andes: palaces, baths, temples, tombs, sundials and farming terraces, along with llamas that roam among hundreds of gray granite houses.

However, curious tourists won't find many bowls, tools, ritual objects or other artifacts used by the Incas of the late 1400s.To see those, they have to go to New Haven, Conn.

Yale historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, and backed by the National Geographic Society, he returned with large expeditions in 1912 and 1915. Each time, he carted out crates filled with archaeological finds, with permission from Peruvian President Augusto Leguía.

Today, Peru is threatening to sue the Ivy League school, claiming the permission was either given illegally or misunderstood.

The treasures of Machu Picchu, says David Ugarte, regional director of Peru's National Culture Institute, were given to the American explorer "on loan."


Peru to sue Yale for Machu Picchu treasures
Thu Dec 1, 2005 5:50 PM ET. Source: Reuters by Robin Emmott

Machu Picchu, Main SquareLIMA, 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 collection.

"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 Picchu.

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 year.

"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.

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