First artifacts return to Peru

Over 350 artifacts excavated from Machu Picchu in the early 1900s made their official reentry into Peru Wednesday after nearly 100 years at Yale.

These objects represent the first of more than 5,000 relics Yale will return to Peru over the next two years under a Nov. 23 agreement between the University and the Peruvian government.

“We are profoundly satisfied,” Peruvian President Alan Garcia said at a press conference held outside the Government Palace as the objects were arriving. Garcia has fought for the return of these objects for much of his four-year presidency, which ends in July.

The objects will be displayed in Lima for about a week and then brought to Cusco, the site of the newly established Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture. This center, to be housed in a manor house in Cusco called the Casa Concha, is responsible for the preservation and study of this collection.

On Monday, Peruvian news source Andina reported that Casa Concha, which has been under restoration for more than four years, is ready to house the artifacts.

The artifacts were found during a series of expeditions to Machu Picchu led by Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham III 1898. Between 1911 and 1916, Bingham and his team excavated thousands of objects from the ruins and brought them to Yale for study.

For much of the past century, and particularly over the past 10 years, Peru has fought for the repatriation of the pieces. The dispute became particularly tense over the past decade, with Peru filing suit twice and last summer launching an international campaign to win the objects back.

But Peruvians and University officials emphasize the goodwill that now exists between the two parties.

“It is nice that we can now look forward to really what we can accomplish,” Yale Professor Richard Burger said in a January interview. Burger, the primary curator for the collection, and his wife Peabody Museum of Natural History Curator Lucy Salazar, are currently in Peru overseeing the return of the objects.

The next shipment of objects is scheduled to occur in December 2011.

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