Images of Hiram Bingham III, the Machu Picchu exhibition, and an Inca shawl pin in the Yale Peabody Museum collection [source]
via the New York Times :
By HUGH EAKIN
Published: February 1, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Jan. 26 — By any conventional measure, Yale's exhibition about Machu Picchu would seem a windfall for Peru. As one of the most ambitious shows about the Inca ever presented in the United States, drawing over a million visitors while traveling to half a dozen cities and back again, it has riveted eyes on Peru's leading tourist attraction.
Yet instead of cementing an international partnership, the exhibition, which returned to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale in September, has brought a low ebb in the university's relations with Peru. At issue are a large group of artifacts that form the core of the show, excavated at Machu Picchu in a historic dig by a Yale explorer in 1912. The government of Peru wants all of those objects back.
Peru contends that it essentially lent the Machu Picchu objects to the university nearly a century ago and that the university has failed to return them. Yale has staunchly rebuffed Peru's claim, stating that it returned all borrowed objects in the 1920's and has retained only those to which it has full title.
The dispute is inflamed by the swashbuckling exploits of Hiram Bingham III, a Yale professor, aviator and later senator, and the special dispensations he brokered with the Peruvian government to take Inca bones and ritual tomb objects out of Peru. Add a Peruvian president who has made the country's indigenous heritage a central theme of his administration and an Ivy League archaeology department with a towering reputation in the Inca field, and the dispute has all the ingredients of an Indiana Jones movie.
Both Yale and the Peruvians say they hope for an amicable resolution, and talks continue. In December, Yale even offered to return numerous objects to Peru and help install and maintain them in a Peruvian museum. Up to now Peruvian officials have not responded to this proposal, saying that recognition of Peru's title to the entire collection must be the basis of any agreement.
They [the objects] were removed during an authorized archaeological dig nearly a century ago; they were inspected by the Peruvian government before they left the country; and even Peruvian officials acknowledge that the objects themselves — which consist largely of bones, ceramic pots and common Inca tools — do not have great aesthetic or museum value.
On the other hand, Peru did have laws in force at the time governing archaeological finds, and its government in theory had ownership of any artifacts unearthed from Peruvian soil. As a result, the dispute has become something of a test case for the limits of cultural property claims against American institutions. [read the full article]
related reading :
Peru talks continue as lawsuit looms (Yale Daily News)