Last of Yale’s Machu Picchu Artifacts Returned to Peru After Years of Negotiations

The last of the Machu Picchu artifacts that Yale University agreed to give back to Peru were returned this Monday. The quiet repatriation after years of tumultuous negotiations and a lawsuit back in 2008 was reported by the Yale Daily News. The final shipment, containing a group of 127 boxes with around 35,000 pieces, mostly pottery fragments, was the third to be sent to Peru, with previous returns in March and December of 2011.

In November 2010, Yale and Peru resolved their lawsuit, in which Peru had sued Yale over the ownership for the artifacts, with Yale committing to return them. These were items that were taken by Hiram Bingham III, an explorer and archeologist with Yale who traveled to Peru on three expeditions that took place between 1911 to 1915. Bingham was notably the person to make Machu Picchu known to the public when local farmers guided him to the pre-Columbian citadel 7,970 feet above sea level. While the artifacts were supposedly on loan to Yale for only 18 months, they were kept by the university for decades until the lawsuit.

Artifacts from Yale’s previous returns included more intact items like ceramics, jewelry, and art objects, as well as human remains. Some of these are now displayed at the Museo de Casa Concha in Cusco, Peru.

Allison Meier