Peru sues Yale to get back ancient Incan artifacts
LIMA – Peru has filed a lawsuit against Yale University to recover relics taken nearly a century ago from the ancient Incan capital of Machu Picchu, the country’s top tourist spot, the American school said on Wednesday.
Peru says Yale has more than 40,000 pieces — a precious mix of mummies, pottery and jewelry — taken by U.S. explorer and Yale alumnus Hiram Bingham after he rediscovered the ancient city in 1911.
Yale said it was disappointed by the suit, which Peru had threatened to file for years, and promised to fight it.
Museums around the world are facing demands by countries, from Peru to Greece and Egypt, to return ancient treasures.
“The claims asserted by Peru are barred by the statute of limitations and would be without merit even if they had been filed within the legal time period. Yale will defend against it vigorously,” the school said in a statement.
In the past, Yale has said it would take better care of the artifacts than Peru and also offer scholars the opportunity to study them.
At the time of Bingham’s visit, the ancient city, now a major tourist draw, was largely forgotten and covered by thick forest at 8,000 feet above sea level.
Peru is dotted with hundreds of archeological sites and has struggled for years to combat trafficking of fossils and artifacts.
Peru says the objects excavated by Bingham were on loan to Yale for 18 months, and simply never sent back. In the text of its suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, which handles many international cases, Peru’s government said it was acting to regain control of its cultural heritage.
“These artifacts belong to Peru and its people and are central to the history and heritage of the Peruvian nation. Yale is wrongfully, improperly and fraudulently detaining this property and has refused its return,” the government said.