Dodd calls for return of Inca artifacts

Another voice has joined the people of Peru in asking Yale to return artifacts from the historic Machu Picchu site.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd returned from a trip to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru the first week of June, during which he spoke with Peruvian President Alan Garcia and other government officials, and pledged his support in the nation’s efforts to recover the artifacts. Dodd also told the Peruvian newspaper Correo that he would help the country in its fight against Yale, and said in a press release that the artifacts belong in Peru, not Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History.

“The Machu Picchu artifacts do not belong to any government, to any institution, or to any university. They belong to the people of Peru,” he said in the release. “I plan to work with both parties to resolve this dispute quickly, amicably, and return the artifacts to their rightful owners.”

The artifacts in question consist of household and art items and human remains, which famed explorer and Yale graduate Hiram Bingham found in the Inca city of Machu Picchu when he rediscovered the site in 1911 and brought back to New Haven. The Peruvian government says the artifacts were only on loan to Yale, and sued for their return in 2008. This past October, Yale moved that the charges be dropped because the statute of limitations had passed. Peru dropped six of the 17 charges against Yale in March, but the legal conflict is ongoing.

Vice President and General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said Yale has long been in communication with both Dodd and Peru’s legal counsel about the possibility of a mediated solution, and would prefer negotiation to litigation, though the University responded to Peru’s lawsuit in 2008.

“We appreciate the senator’s interest in encouraging a resolution,” Robinson said in an e-mail. “We have always said that this situation … calls for an amicable resolution, in the interests of all, including the international scholarly community and the public, as well as the Government and people of Peru.”

Peru’s National Chamber of Tourism is considering using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to launch a public relations campaign and pressure Yale to return the artifacts, Jose Koechlin of Peru’s eco-tourism company Inkaterra told Diane Orson of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network.

“It doesn’t make sense that Yale would stand by something that is so clearly wrong in the true American values, the true democratic values, the true human values,” Koechlin said. “What’s right is right. What’s wrong is wrong. And this is wrong.”

During his travels in Latin America, Dodd — the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Latin America branch — discussed U.S. relations and the global economic crisis with government officials.

Esther Zuckerman contributed reporting.

Comments