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Yale agrees to provide list of Machu Picchu artifacts


An inventory provided by Yale University could help avoid a lawsuit over Peruvian artifacts brought to New Haven by a well-known explorer nearly a century ago.

The government of Peru wants the collection back, saying it never relinquished ownership when Yale scholar Hiram Bingham III rediscovered the Incan city of Machu Picchu in 1911 and began exporting artifacts from what has become one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.

Peruvian officials had threatened a lawsuit, but Peru’s new president appears willing to settle the dispute without legal action.

As part of that effort, Yale has agreed to provide a list of the artifacts, which could help decide who gets to keep them.

A group of Peruvians led by the country’s housing minister are expected to visit New Haven next month to talk with Yale officials.

“Why should we pursue a lawsuit?” said Vladimir Kocerha, a spokesman for the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, D.C. “Things are progressing. We are talking to them. They are talking to us.”

The collection in question contains about 300 museum-quality pieces, including mummies, ceramics, tools and human bones.

The ruins at Machu Picchu, located on a mountaintop above a lush valley 310 miles southeast of Lima, are Peru’s top tourist attraction.

Bingham, a Yale archaeologist, became the first foreigner to reach Machu Picchu in 1911 and returned to the site in 1912 and 1914. Yale says artifacts from the 1914 expedition were returned long ago and the current dispute focuses on relics from the 1912 trip.

The Peruvian government maintains that, while Bingham had approval to remove the artifacts, they were essentially on loan to Yale and the country never relinquished legal ownership.

Peru has been pressing for the return of the artifacts since Alejandro Toledo, the country’s first indigenous president, was elected in 2001. In late 2005, Peru threatened a lawsuit, but none was ever filed.

This spring, Yale president Richard Levin wrote to new president Alan Garcia to suggest a compromise.

Earlier this summer, Garcia appointed his housing minister to handle the matter and Yale’s chief counsel visited Peru and agreed to provide a list of items Bingham excavated. A Yale spokesman said it should be done by the end of the year.

Information from: The Hartford Courant,

– Associated Press

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