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Monday, September 17, 2007

Machu Picchu Artifacts Headed Back to Peru

MachupicchuWe've been following this one for a while and here.  Now the New York Times is reporting (thanks to Carl Christensen of the University of Hawaii Law School for bringing this to our attention) that Yale and Peru have reached an agreement to repatriate some Machu Picchu artifacts that were brought to New Haven by Hirman Bingham.  Highlights from the story:

For several years Yale had argued that it had returned all borrowed objects in the 1920s, retaining only those to which it had full title. Yale proposed dividing possession of the artifacts. But negotiations between the university and the administration of President Alejandro Toledo, who was in power from 2001 until July 2006, broke down, and Peru threatened last year to go to court.

On Friday night Yale officials and a Peruvian delegation that traveled to New Haven signed a preliminary agreement that would return title to Peru of more than 350 artifacts — ceramics and metal and stone objects — that are considered to be of museum quality and several thousand fragments, bones and other objects considered to be primarily of interest to researchers.

The agreement, which establishes an extensive collaborative relationship between Yale and Peru, provides for an international traveling exhibition. Admission fees will be used to help build a new museum and research center in Cuzco, the city closest to Machu Picchu. The museum, for which Yale will serve as adviser, is expected to be completed in 2010....

The objects were excavated almost a century ago by Hiram Bingham III, a charismatic professor, aviator and later senator who is credited with the modern discovery of Machu Picchu, which he stumbled upon while looking for another archaeological site. Before his arrival the Inca complex had been known to only a few local farmers around Cuzco. Bingham struck deals with the government at the time to allow him to send objects back to Yale that he had excavated from about 170 tombs at the site.

Dedicated propertyprof readers will recall that we've much interested in Hiram Bingham's grandfather's writings about early Hawaii's property law.

Much to talk about here; shades of the Elgin Marbles and of Imperialism, Art, and Restitution.  The public domain image of Machu Picchu is from our friends at wikipedia.

Oh, and happy 220th anniversary of the Constitution, too!

Alfred L. Brophy
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