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Peru wants archeology back from Yale

11/03/2017, 10:20am EDT
By Lance Braithwaite

Rising proudly at over 7500 feet high ( 2300 meters ), Inca citadel of Machu Picchu was so inaccessible that the Spanish conquerors were never able to found it. But in 1911 Yale historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered it, and between 1912 and 1915, directed the National Geographic Society in a series of expeditions that ended in many archaeological finds that were transferred to Yale University, allegedly with the permission of Peruvian president, Augusto Legua. 

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90 years later, Peruvian authorities wants all those objects back, and had notified the Yale University President that a lawsuit is being prepared in case that an amicable resolution would not be reached. 

Although I found this kind of matters very, very complex, I think that the Peruvian claim must be taken in consideration. This would not only be a case of historical justice (in 1911 Peruvians authorities were not conscious of the artistic and historical value of the Inca artefacts) but also an uncommon opportunity to end with an old case of art without context. 

This kind of claims had been historically futile. From the old one made by the Greek government to the British Museum asking for the Elgin marbles, to the recent demand made by the Nigeria government around stolen Nok objects. But also remember that the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Atlanta has recently returned to Egypt the mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses I, given the historical importance of the object. So I will raise one question here: is it more historically important to a country the old, nasty corpse of an ancient King or the artistic artifacts from its most famous heritage city?

Lance Braithwaite
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