Lima: Yale University will return to Peru all the pieces from the Machu Picchu archaeological site that it has had in its possession since 1912, Peruvian President Alan Garcia said.
In a message aired on the TV Peru state network, the president said he learned of Yale's decision from former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who arrived in Lima as a special envoy of the university's president, Richard Levin.
"When we talked, Zedillo told us that the decision of the university and its president - an exceptional decision - is to acknowledge the great value and significance the recovery of these items will have for Peru on the centenary of Machu Picchu's discovery," he said.
Several weeks ago the Peruvian government launched an international campaign for the recovery of the pieces, in Yale's possession since 1912, before the July 2011 celebration of the centenary of the "discovery" of the Inca citadel by US explorer Hiram Bingham.
Garcia said that he met for an hour and a half with Zedillo, the current director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, who told him of Yale's decision to hand over "all of the items, fragments and pieces that were taken from Machu Picchu by Mr. Hiram Bingham almost a century ago".
"The Peruvian government is grateful for this decision," Garcia said, who then acknowledged that "Yale preserved these items that would otherwise have been dispersed in private collections throughout the world and might even have disappeared".
The president said that the return of the archaeological objects will begin during the first months of 2011 and will be placed in the care of the National University of San Antonio Abad in Cuzco, the region in southern Peru where Machu Picchu is located.
He said that the Yale experts "will be able to continue their research" on the site, while the government builds a gallery to exhibit the archaeological pieces.
The first lot of Incan items that Yale will return to Peru in March of next year will be made up of 370 complete pieces in condition to be exhibited in a museum, Peru's Culture Minister Juan Ossio said Saturday.
"The museum-quality pieces will be returned in March 2011, after which an additional lot will be sent, and we estimate that between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 all the pieces - more than 46,000 fragments - should be back in this country," the minister said in a press release.
The culture minister also thanked President Garcia for his negotiations with his US counterpart, Barack Obama, to reach an accord with Yale that would permit the repatriation of these archaelogical remains before next year's celebration of Hiram Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu.
According to an inventory taken in recent years by experts at Yale and a Peruvian commission, there are 46,332 archaeological objects and fragments from Machu Picchu at the American university.
"We're going to ask Congress" for the necessary funding "to prepare a gallery where they can be exhibited and where research into those items can be continued by archaeologists from Cuzco, Peru, Yale, and the entire world", Garcia said.
First Published: Monday, November 22, 2010, 09:14