Items from Machu Picchu Return to Peru After Nearly a Century


LIMA – A first batch of nearly 400 Machu Picchu objects arrived on Wednesday from Yale University almost 100 years after they were taken away from the Inca citadel by explorer and academic Hiram Bingham, officials said.

Yale returned 363 objects and 1,000 fragments in the first batch and by the end of 2012 will have sent back 46,332 artifacts from Machu Picchu that Bingham took out of Peru, Culture Minister Juan Ossio said.

Yale and Cuzco's San Antonio Abad University have signed an agreement to carry out joint research and study, Ossio said.

"Students from Cuzco will go to Yale University for further study. There will also be an exchange of professors. A happy ending," Ossio told Radio Programas del Peru.

The antiquities that arrived Wednesday were to remain in the customs area of Lima's international airport for a few hours before being transferred to the presidential palace, where President Alan Garcia was to receive them.

The transfer will take place under tight security, with 600 police officers to take part in the operation, police Gen. Raul Salazar said.

The objects will not be exhibited until next week because technical requirements stipulate that the boxes can only be opened after two days and then a detailed inventory will be conducted.

Bingham (1875-1956), a lecturer at Yale who later became a U.S. senator, took the artifacts to the university after his expeditions to Machu Picchu in 1912 and 1915. They were supposedly taken out on loan for a few months but it was almost 100 years before they were returned.

The Peruvian government signed a memorandum of understanding with Yale University last Nov. 23, giving that institution a maximum of two years to return the artifacts discovered and removed by Bingham, who first came upon Machu Picchu in 1911.

The agreement followed a long-running dispute that had even led to Peru filing a civil suit against Yale in a federal court in Connecticut.

The accord was signed after Garcia's government had launched an international media campaign to demand the return of all the artifacts, including sending a letter to U.S. counterpart Barack Obama asking for his support and threatening criminal charges against Yale's president.

Machu Picchu, which is located high in the Andes mountains of southeastern Peru and is that nation's main tourist attraction, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.