Between 1911 and 1915, Hiram Bingham III conducted excavations at Machu Picchu in Peru in conjunction with Yale University. Over the course of Bingham’s work, he uncovered more than 4,000 objects, which he requested to take back to Yale for study and temporary exhibition. In the original contract Bingham agreed to give back the objects after 18 months. However, the agreement was never honored and the artifacts have remained in the Peabody Museum at Yale ever since.
The site of Machu Picchu in Peru from which the 4,000 objects were excavated by Hiram Bingham. The site will celebrate its centennial of discovery in 2011. (Photo: Peruvian Government)
Both Peru and Yale University have been in negotiations over the past few years to return the objects back to their rightful home in Peru. Due to Yale’s resistance however, Peru filed a lawsuit against Yale citing their violation of Peruvian law by removing the objects without special permission from the Peruvian government and their refusal to give the objects back. Unfortunately, after the lawsuit and the ensuing legal red tape, no agreement had been reached between the two parties as of 2010.
In April 2010, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) sponsored a conference on the International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage. The main goal of the conference was to bring together nations who had been negatively affected by illegal trafficking of antiquities so that they could work together to find a solution to this problem. A total of twenty-two countries attended the conference, including a delegation from Peru. I was very impressed with Peru’s commitment to the repatriation of stolen artifacts and by their impassioned participation in the conference. All the delegations were asked to submit “wish lists” at the conference so that there would be a public record of all the pieces those countries wanted returned to their rightful homes. Included on Peru’s wish list were the 4,000 objects at Yale.
After the conference I stayed in close contact with the Peruvian delegation and in October 2010, the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Peru, José Antonio Garciá Belaúnde, and the Ambassador of Peru in Egypt came to meet me in order to seek my advice on what Peru should do in order to bring their precious objects home. I advised the Minister of Foreign Affairs to bring this matter to the media’s attention. One of the key components in my campaign to return stolen artifacts to Egypt is the media. I have been insistent on bringing this unacceptable behavior to light through press releases, print media and television appearances.
Taking this under consideration, Peru began an aggressive media campaign in November 2010 in order to pressure Yale into returning the Peruvian artifacts. Thankfully their efforts were successful and Peru and Yale University reached an agreement on November 23 for all of the 4,000 objects to be returned over the next two years. Most importantly the best quality pieces among the collection will be back in Peru for the centennial celebration of the discovery of Machu Picchu. I am extremely pleased at the outcome of this case and I hope that Peru’s battle will become one of many success stories in the return of stolen antiquities. I am very glad that I could be of assistance in their negotiations with Yale and I look forward to seeing more artifacts returned to their rightful home.
Memphis Tours Egypt Since 1955
Posted by: Shaimaa Ahmed