Thursday, August 11, 2011
We somehow missed this one when it was fresh, but watching The Daily Show this week we learned of a lovely contracts story. The relevant segment, which will probably go up on the The Daily Show website next week, was Jon Stewart's interview with Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time. In the interview, Adams mentions that Hiram Bingham III, the man credited with "discovering" Machu Picchu in 1911, brought back relics from the site which he subsequently donated to Yale University.
As recounted in this article from National Public Radio, the Peruvian government permitted Bingham to take relics back to Yale for study in return for his promise to return them upon demand by Peru. When Peru asked Yale to return its artifacts, Yale at first refused, claiming that the custom at the time of Bingham's discovery was more or less "finders, keepers" and dismissing Bingham's letters acknowledging his agreement with the Peruvian government as non-binding. Peru filed suit in 2008 (here is the complaint), and at the end of last year, the two sides entered into a Memorandum of Understanding.
Under the MOU, the artifacts are to be returned to Peru by the end of 2012. In return for the return of its property, Peru has agreed to build a museum in Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital, to house them and to establish an international center at which scholars from around the world can have access to them.