Since Yale and Peru settled a lawsuit regarding artifacts taken by archeologist Hiram Bingham III from Machu Picchu in the early 1900’s, the university has been shipping the artifacts back to Peru. The final 127-box shipment was returned yesterday. The dispute between Yale and Peru has been on-going. Yale claimed that all of the borrowed artifacts were returned in the 1920’s, and that which remained were it’s legal possessions.
At the time of the discovery and excavation, Bingham had an agreement with the Peruvian government to send objects from the site back to Yale. He excavated approximately 170 tombs at the Machu Picchu site. Since he had government permission, the site was not considered looted. However, the Peruvian government has made its Inca heritage a national platform, which includes reclaiming artifacts.
This situation does bring up the larger picture of a nation’s rights to its cultural artifacts. Many countries are petitioning museums to return artifacts to their country of origin. Does the removal of artifacts from their countries of origin, whether through legal or illegal means, constitute a form a violence?