Peru Mounts Campaign against Yale to Reclaim Artifacts

Posted on November 8, 2010

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In recent weeks, Peru has stepped up its efforts to reclaim Peruvian artifacts from Yale.  We’ve discussed the controversy on the Cultural Property & Archaeology Law Blog here and here, but the New York Times has provided this excellent summary:

Peru has argued that the items were only lent to the university and should have been returned long ago. Yale has contended that it returned all borrowed objects in the 1920s, retaining only those to which it had full title. In 2007 the sides reached a tentative agreement that would have set up a long-term collaboration and granted title of the disputed antiquities to Peru while allowing a certain number to remain at Yale for study and display. But that deal fell apart in 2008, and Peru filed a civil suit in federal court in Connecticut.

Last month, Peru threatened to pursue criminal charges against Yale if the objects are not returned.  In my opinion, this makes Peru look kind of silly, because there is no real threat there.  Whether or not you agree with Yale’s position, it has a non-frivolous argument, and I’ve seen no indication that any Yale representatives have done anything criminal; this is a legitimate property dispute.

Last week, President Alan García of Peru made a formal request for President Obama’s intervention.  On Friday, he mounted demonstrations in Lima and Cusco, where thousands marched to show solidarity in their demand that Yale return the estimated/alleged 40,000 artifacts.  Support is mounting — Equador has expressed it is behind Peru, and nine runners in last week’s NY marathon wore tee shirts supporting return of the artifacts.

Read Peruvians demonstrate in Lima and Cusco protesting Yale.

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