The World Archaeological Congress, the international association for archaeologists, has applauded the decision this week by Yale University to return thousands of artifacts taken early last century from Peru’s ruin Machu Picchu by a Yale explorer.
More than 4,000 artifacts including mummies, ceramics and bones, were taken from the historic Inca site and exported to the US.
The decision to return the objects was made after lengthy negotiations and the threat of a lawsuit between the American university and the Peru Government. Peru demanded the collection be returned last year, claiming to be the rightful owner and that they never relinquished ownership of the objects when Yale scholar and explorer, Hiram Bingham III, came upon Machu Picchu in 1911.
President of the World Archaeological Congress, Dr Claire Smith, stated, “Yale University and Peru have reached an historic agreement. While it is structured so there is collaborative stewardship of these cultural and natural treasures, it also recognizes that at no point did Peru cede ownership of this material.”
The agreement provides for an international traveling exhibition of many of the pieces with admission fees to be used to help build a new museum and research center in Cuzco, the city closest to Machu Picchu. The new museum, for which Yale will be an adviser, should be completed in 2010.
Some of the research-quality artifacts will remain at Yale though legal title to all the items will be held by Peru. Yale will also help establish a program of scholarly exchanges that will continue for at least three years.
Dr Claire Smith continued, “This is a landmark agreement. We applaud the decision by Yale to return artifacts to their rightful owner, Peru.”
The World Archaeological Congress (WAC) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and is the only representative worldwide body of practicing archaeologists. Former patrons of WAC International Congresses include Nelson Mandela, Prince Charles and Harriet Fulbright.
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