ArtAndes Blog

Yale returns Machu Picchu artifacts

Posted February 24, 2011 @ 9:26am | by Melanie


Peru is promoting the 100 year anniversary of the 'discovery' of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham. 
( 1911-2011) Bingham, and Yale, have been quite lofty in the attempt to take credit for such a discovery. 
My experience in the mountains of Peru is, the locals always know where the ruins are, 
and they always have. They are people of the land and are in touch with their environment,
much more than we are!
There has been a battle to get the artifacts back from Yale for many years.              
In 1912, when Bingham came back for further exploration, Peru offered Bingham a resolution under 
which the artifacts could leave to be studied by Yale. It was a recognition of Yale's scientific commitment. 
But the artifacts would leave on just one condition: that they could be sent back whenever Peru asked.
Some artifacts were returned, but most remained at Yale's Peabody Museum. The university said the 
artifacts had been sent to New Haven to be studied permanently. Yale claimed title to the collection and 
insisted that under the laws of the day, finders of antiquities were allowed to keep them — despite written 
correspondence in which Bingham acknowledged an obligation to return the objects. 
Peruvian demands escalated about eight years ago, and in 2008, Peru sued in U.S. federal court. 
Yale countered with a motion to dismiss the case, saying the country had lost its right to the materials by 
waiting too long to ask for them back. Eventually, Yale relinquished control of Peru's antiquities, they 
are now on their way to Cusco to be places in a museum. 
It's interesting. In short, Yale did help put Peru on the map by helping to create a major tourist
destination that has been an incredible economic boost to a developing country. They were wrong
in keeping the artifacts and in the amount of attention given to Bingham as having 'discovered'
Machu Picchu. 
Peru has benefited from the research but they have to work hard at preserving what they have.
Tourism has many negative effects if left unchecked. Unesco designated Machu Picchu as a world
heritage site in 1983. They are now monitoring closely the overuse of the site and making
recommendations to the Peruvian government, which is a very good thing. There is a high level
of corruption in Peru and they need Unesco to keep it intact.
Filed Under: Peru travel | Permalink
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