Peru is planning to sue the University over Peruvian artifacts that have been in Yale’s possession since the beginning of the 20th century, University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said.
The artifacts, which were excavated from Machu Picchu between 1911 and 1914 by Hiram Bingham, class of 1898, include around 5,000 human remains and ceramics, according to the Associated Press. The status of the artifacts have been the subject of negotiations between the Peruvian government and Yale for three years, Robinson said.
“This is a well-publicized and well-known collection that’s has been at Yale for 90 years,” she said. “We have been interested in collaborating with the Peruvians to resolve this situation amicably in a way that would allow some of the objects to be displayed both at Yale and in Peru and make them available for study in both locations.”
Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, chief of Peru’s National Institute of Culture, told the Associated Press that while the artifacts have been at Yale for nearly a century, they still belong to Peru.
The president of Peru in 1911, Augusto Leguia, gave Bingham the artifacts for research for 30 months, Lumbreras said. With the centennial anniversary of the discovery is approaching, the Peruvians want the artifacts back, he said.
Despite the current push for the legal action, Robinson says she remains hopeful that the University and Peru can work through the conflict.
“[Lawsuits have] been mentioned from time to time, and I believe the present government is maybe a little impatient, but we’re optimistic that we are making progress,” she said.
Irma Mejia ’07, an archaeology and Latin American studies double major, said she is unsure why Yale would not return the artifacts.
“I imagine that, with so much recent tourism at Machu Picchu, Peru can take care of the artifacts,” she said. “I have no idea why Yale won’t give them back.”
But Yifei Mu ’07, another archaeology major, said the artifacts belong to Yale and should remain in the Peabody Collection.
“There is not a good chance that the artifacts will be turned over [to Peru],” she said. “They haven’t done a good job curating the artifacts they already have in their possession.”
The Peruvian Foreign Ministry will likely file the case in Connecticut state court, though officials said they were not sure when proceedings would begin, the Associated Press reported.