Provost Peter Salovey and other University officials gathered in Cusco, Peru on Thursday to celebrate, alongside faculty of the University in Cusco, the formal opening of the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”1275″ ]

Several hundred guests attended the ceremony, including Peruvian Minister of Culture Susana Braca, Rector of UNSAAC Victor Raul Aguilar, President of the Peruvian Association of Rectors Orlando Velasquez Benites, Mayor of Cusco Luis Arturo Flores Garcia and about 50 Peruvian University rectors.

“Clearly the University here welcomes the partnership with Yale, and I can see that the Casa Concha will be a great place for scholars and students worldwide to study and conduct research,” Salovey said in an email. “Yale College should develop an international study program here; I think Yalies would love Cusco.”

The center’s opening comes after over a decade of heated dispute between Yale and the Peruvian government over the ownership of thousands of ancient Incan artifacts discovered by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham III between 1911 and 1916. Although tensions rose when Peruvian officials sued the University in Dec. 2008 for the artifacts’ return, both sides came to an amicable agreement last November with the Memorandum of Understanding. Last month, despite the decade of strife, Peruvian ambassador to the United States Harold Forsyth awarded President Levin the Order “The Sun of Peru” in the grade of “Great Cross” — Peru’s highest civilian honor — for his work in brokering the negotiation settlement.

According to the terms in the Memorandum, Yale will return all of the Machu Picchu artifacts to Peru by Dec. 31, 2012.