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.
In December 2008, Peru sued Yale for the return of the artifacts. The status of the lawsuit is unknown since an agreement was reached between the Yale University delegation, composed of former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, Director of the Peabody Museum Derek Briggs and professor of anthropology Richard Burger, and high ranking officials of the Peruvian government including President Garcia.
*Sabrina Karim is contributing blogger to www.AmericasQuarterly.org and is currently living in Lima, Peru, as part of a Fulbright Fellowship.