After almost a century of dispute, the Republic of Peru has filed a lawsuit against Yale University in a U.S. federal court in an attempt to recover thousands of Inca artifacts removed from the Machu Picchu jungle ruins.
The South American nation said Yale has more than 40,000 pieces — a valuable mix of mummies, pottery, and jewelry — taken by U.S. explorer and Yale alumnus Hiram Bingham after he rediscovered the ancient city in 1911.
“Peru seeks the immediate return of all such property as well as damages that it has suffered on account of Yale’s persistent breach of its obligations and profit at the expense of the people of Peru,” the lawsuit says.
Generously funded by the National Geographic Society and rich friends at Yale University, within days Bingham had stumbled upon Machu Picchu, the “lost city of the Incas”. Bingham’s discovery earned him a place in the league of the world’s greatest voyagers.
Yale representative Tom Conroy also issued a statement Tuesday, in which he condemned the Peruvian lawsuit.
“The claims asserted by Peru are barred by the statute of limitations,” Conroy said, “and would have been without merit even if they had been filed within the legal time period.”
Peru said the artifacts unearthed by Bingham were on loan to Yale for 18 months, and simply never sent back. In the text of its suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Peru’s government said it was acting to regain control of its cultural heritage.
“These artifacts belong to Peru and its people and are central to the history and heritage of the Peruvian nation. Yale is wrongfully, improperly and fraudulently detaining this property and has refused its return,” the government said.