Peru’s Culture Minister to travel to Yale for talks on Machu Picchu artifacts

Peru’s Culture Minister Juan Ossio is planning to meet with authorities from Yale to discuss retrieving thousands of archaeological artifacts taken from Machu Picchu by American historian Hiram Bingham nearly a century ago, state news agency Andina reported.

“We are thinking of traveling to the United States. I am going to request an appointment with the president of the university,” Ossio said. “My plan will be that there is no need to fight. We can bring all of the pieces to Peru, build a site together that will be a space for cooperation between scientists.”

We could construct a museum, probably in Cuzco, and in this museum [about 360] pieces could be displayed and the rest preserved in a laboratory where experts from Peru, Yale and other universities around the world can come and do research.”

A date for the trip is not set, however the minister is expecting it to be in two weeks.

For years Peru has haggled with Yale seeking the return of thousands of artifacts that Bingham dug up from some 170 tombs during three expeditions to Machu Picchu in 1911, 1912 and 1914.

In September 2007, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Yale and President Alan García’s government for the return of the artifacts. But that step forward took the negotiations two steps back when the terms of the accord came under scrutiny by former Peruvian first lady Eliane Karp, wife of García’s predecessor Alejandro Toledo. She wrote a Feb. 23 Op-Ed piece in the New York Times sounding the alarm that Peru was getting shafted.

It was revealed that under the terms of the memorandum, Peru would receive only 384 “museum quality” pieces for a traveling exhibit over two years, whose ultimate destination would be a museum in Cusco, built to specifications set by Yale. The Peabody Museum of Natural History in Connecticut would retain the rest of the artifacts — including ceramics, human bone fragments and metal ceremonial pieces – and usufructory rights over the materials for 99 more years.

Peru’s effort to have the artifacts returned is currently in litigation in a Connecticut court.

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