Ministry of Culture, Cuzco university sign agreement for Machu Picchu artifacts

Peru’s Culture Ministry and the San Antonio Abad del Cuzco National University (UNSAAC) signed an agreement on Monday to cooperate on the custody and conservation of archaeological pieces from Machu Picchu that will be returned by Yale University.

The agreement includes cooperation between the ministry and university for the exhibition, study and research of the fragments and artifacts, which are expected to be returned in March, state news agency Andina reported.

The 46,632 fragments and artifacts –which include under 400 museum quality pieces –were taken from Machu Picchu almost a century ago by American explorer Hiram Bingham.

The return of the artifacts has been a source of conflict between Peru and Yale, with the former announcing in 2005 that negotiations were going nowhere and that it planned to take its case to the U.S. courts.

Last year, President Alan Garcia made a personal appeal to his counterpart in the US, President Barack Obama, to intervene in the process.

In November, Garcia announced that he reached an agreement with Yale representative and former Mexican President, Ernesto Zedillo.

“The request that Yale University made is that we take good care of this heritage,” said Culture minister Juan Ossio. “We have pointed out that in our country it is going to be in very good hands, in the San Antonio Abad de Cuzco University”

The university in Cuzco is currently developing a museum to hold the pieces. “This is the museum that the city of Cuzco really deserves,” Ossio said. “It has the full support of the Peruvian State for it to become a reality soon.”

Only some 350 of the ceramic, stone and metal artifacts are considered to be of museum quality, while the remainder is made up to a great extent by bone fragments and potsherds. The objects were excavated by Hiram Bingham at the 15th century citadel and the surrounding area between 1912 and 1916, during his expeditions sponsored by Yale University and National Geographic. Bingham was granted permission by the Peruvian Government to take the artifacts, on loan, to the Peabody Museum, Connecticut, for research, despite protests at the time in Cusco and from the National Historic Institute in Lima.

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