December 16th, 2011 | University

Shipment of Machu Picchu artifacts arrives in Peru

After almost a century of conflict, the dispute between Yale and Peru over artifacts from Machu Picchu is ending.
After almost a century of conflict, the dispute between Yale and Peru over artifacts from Machu Picchu is ending. Photo by Sarah Nutman.

A shipment of Machu Picchu artifacts from Yale’s Peabody Museum arrived in Cusco yesterday, Peruvian state news agency Andina reported.

The shipment of 26 boxes contains all the human and animal skeletal remains found by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham III 1898 during the 1912 Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition. The boxes contain remains from 176 human skeletons, many of which were found incomplete, Peabody Museum Curator Richard Burger ’72 told the News. Cayo Garcia Miranda, a member of the International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture, told Andina that the remains would be crucial for studying his country’s past.

“It is fundamental to have these objects since they show so much of our history. Through DNA testing we can learn genetic, pathological and anatomic characteristics,” Garcia Miranda told Andina. “These are the ancient Peruvians.”

The artifacts had been housed in Yale’s Peabody Museum, causing decades of controversy between Yale and the Peruvian government, but a November 2010 agreement between the two parties guaranteed the artifacts would return by Dec. 31, 2012.

The first shipment of artifacts was sent in March in order to facilitate the opening of the Machu Picchu Museum in the Casa Concha, Cusco, Burger said. The second and third shipments are primarily important for research purposes, rather than display, Burger said, so they were shipped later.

The third shipment will be significantly larger and will arrive in December of next year, Burger said.

Several Yale and Peruvian officials — including German Zecenarro, rector of Peru’s Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad de Cusco; Richard Burger, the curator of the Peabody Museum, and Paloma Caicedo, heritage director at Peru’s ministry of culture — spoke at a ceremony in Cusco held to welcome the artifacts.