Skip to comments.Peru to sue Yale for Inca treasure 'theft'
Posted on 03/05/2006 10:40:21 AM PST by wagglebee
PERU plans to sue Yale University to recover thousands of artefacts excavated from Machu Picchu more than 90 years ago.
The South American country is seeking the return of some 4,900 artefacts from the Inca citadel, including ceramics, cloths and metalwork.
Peru says they were lent to Yale for 18 months in 1916 but that the university in New Haven, Connecticut, has held on to them ever since.
"Yale does not recognise the Peruvian state's ownership of these artefacts," Peru's ambassador to Washington, Eduardo Ferrero, said in a statement.
He complained that after three years of talks, Yale officials were no longer acting in "good faith".
The statement said US explorer Hiram Bingham had originally been given permission to export the items on the understanding they were on loan and would be returned.
The university said in a statement that it had submitted a revised proposal last week for a settlement that would include returning many of the objects.
"We are disappointed that the government has rejected this proposal and is apparently determined to sue Yale University," the statement said.
It added that the collection was legally excavated and exported "in line with practices of the time".
"We are disappointed that the government of Peru has broken off negotiations before the upcoming elections in Peru, instead of working out the framework for a stable and long-term resolution," it said.
The South American country holds elections in April. The statement noted that Yale had proposed to work with the government of Peru to set up parallel exhibitions of Inca objects at Yale and at a new museum to be built in Peru.
The country has been seeking to retrieve the artefacts now because it aims to put them on public display in 2011 for the centenary of Machu Picchu's rediscovery by Bingham.
Peru's ambassador said the latest Yale proposal was unacceptable because it did not recognise Peru's ownership of the items. "[Yale] maintains that these archeological artefacts belong to humanity, but at the same time it is trying to appropriate them as part of its collection," Ferrero said.
"The Peruvian government... will bring a suit against Yale University before the American courts," Ferrero said.
Bingham, a Yale graduate, found Machu Picchu in the Andes under thick forest in 1911. The pre-Columbian ruins of an entire city were essentially forgotten, perched on a mountain saddle 8,400ft above sea level. Machu Picchu lay at the heart of the Inca empire, which dominated South America from Colombia to Chile until being toppled by Spanish conquistadors in the 1530s. The Andes site attracts more than 500,000 tourists every year.
The 4,902 objects of gold, silver, bone, ceramic and stone from the Inca citadel were carried back to Yale in 1912 by Bingham, an archaeologist, who had reached what he dubbed "the lost city of the Incas" the year before.
Recent research indicates that Machu Picchu was actually discovered in 1902 - nine years before Bingham's expedition - by Peruvian farmer Agustin Lizarraga and two companions, Gabino Sanchez and Enrique Palma, on a trek through the southern jungle province of Cuzco.
With a peasant boy as his guide and a Peruvian civil-guardsman as an escort, Bingham arrived at the site of the Inca citadel on July 24, 1911.
The battle between Yale and Peru over the historic treasures has highlighted a worrying issue for museum curators: how many prized treasures in their collections are plundered goods that should be restored to their rightful owners?
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art seemed to set some sort of an example last week when it announced it would return to Italy a number of antiquities, including a 2,500-year-old Greek vase looted from a tomb north of Rome in 1971 and sold to the museum a year later.
It might be an unwelcome precedent for other institutions, not least the British Museum.
It is locked in battle with Greece to retain marble statues removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, and known as the Elgin Marbles.
The quarrel between Peru and Yale's Peabody Museum is similar, even if Bingham won a "special dispensation" from the government to take Inca artefacts out of Peru.
For decades, the mainly ceramic treasures sat in boxes at Yale as Peru called for their return. Three years ago, the Peabody staged an Inca exhibition that included artefacts the American explorer had brought home.
The Peruvians were furious - all the more so considering that President Alejandro Toledo, the first indigenous Peruvian to hold the country's highest office, has saluted the nation's Inca heritage and held part of his inauguration ceremony at Machu Picchu.
I'd like to sue Yale for allowing the spokesman of the Taliban to attend their school while disallowing the US Military on campus and then having the bloody nerve to collect Federal money that I am providing them through my income tax payments. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
Peru seems to be in the right on this.
The liberal elite is all for supporting the downtrodden third world until they're the ones called upon to do the right thing.
This statement is meaningful if, and only if, the understanding was made in writing and both parties can produce identical copies.
I suspect that this is a retroactive thing on Peru's part, relying mainly on their "understanding" of verbal agreement at the time.
This is similar to Mexico's claims; or Egypt's; or Iraq's.
All are sources of treasures sought, found and preserved by Europeans, and of absolutely no value to the world's present stage of either civilization, societal maturity or technological excellence.
I say return them all, let them deteriorate and disappear, and everyone will be none the worse for it.
Exactly and frankly, I'm wondering if museums and universities have a leg to stand on. They exploited peasants decades ago and took things known to be valuable but the locals often believed to be worthless. Even with clear lines of sale or transfer (as in this case) these antiquities can obviously be worth millions today. I'm a firm believer in "finders keepers" but I don't think a court of law would see it the same way.....
Mind expanding on this opinion?
Are you suggesting study of the past is not important? As far a no value, I'm sure many people would pay big to have King Tut's mask hanging on their living room wall.....;)
This is circular reasoning. Who caused them eventually to be worth millions? Are the present inhabitants of the source of these "treasures" willing to pay what they are "worth" today? I didn't think so.
A treasure, as anything else, is worth no more and no less than what someone is willing to pay for them.
Let's suppose. Suppose all these treasures are returned no questions asked. Not even the expense made to restore and preserve them, or to warehouse them in special environments.
Further suppose that the present inhabitants of these sterling countries decide to sell them to the highest bidders. Would you prevent them from repeating the original mistake? By what authority?
And if not, what's to prevent the repetition of this charade in another 100 years?
This is why I take pleasure in this article.
Not in Egypt... or we wouldn't be having this discussion.
In most cases, that's exactly what I'm saying.
In these cases, the driving force is solely the artificial value induced on the artifacts by the "exploiters". The inhabitants of the original source of the objects have not suggested refunding even the intrinsic worth of the articles.
Of course you are allowed to have one, even if off the wall. What you are not allowed, however, is to make the decision in resolving the dispute or to force your opinion on others.
I believe you and I are saying the same thing. I believe all antiquities should stay right where they are at present, including the British Museum. In this particular case, if Peru can prove that these items were "loaned" then Yale should give them up, if not......to bad for Peru. It will be interesting to see how a court of law rules on this. My guess is universities and museums will be forced to return these objects in the future.....globalism and all that....
Geronimo's skull is trivial.
What is not is the qualitative implications of this line of reasoning:
The Louisiana Purchase.
The Purchase of Alaska.
The Gadsen Purchase.
Sounds like with Yale leaving them in boxes for decades, they knew they were supposed to return them. Yes, I do know most of any museum's collection is in storage but in storage for nearly a hundred years? I don't think so. Ship them back and let's hope they are displayed for all to see.
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