Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Peru 'to sue Yale for Inca items'

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Machu Picchu
An agreement last year to return the relics has stalled

The Peruvian government is to take legal action to recover thousands of Machu Picchu artefacts from Yale University in the US, state media say.

The Inca relics were sent to Yale by US explorer Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911.

A spokesman for Yale University described the move as disappointing and said a lawsuit would not serve the interests of the public, or posterity.

Peru has threatened to sue before. It is not clear when a case will be filed.

Peruvian state media said that a public prosecutor would be appointed and a team of ministers put in charge of overseeing the legal case.

Despite years of negotiations between Peru and the university, and an agreement signed last year, the main sticking point is over the exact number of pieces taken by Mr Bingham with the permission of the then Peruvian government.

Colonial-style Inca bottle (Image courtesy of yale Peabody Museum)
Hiram Bingham made three trips to the site to collect items

Peru said the university has more than 45,000 relics, including ceramics, textiles and jewellery.

They had been loaned to Yale immediately after the ruin was discovered, on the condition they would be returned after one year.

Yale said the number was lower and that it had made reasonable offers to return some of the museum pieces.

It is not yet clear when or where the lawsuit will be filed.

It is not the first time Peru has threatened to take legal action against Yale. A similar scenario occurred in 2006.

Peru, once the centre of the Spanish colonial empire in South America, is becoming increasingly confident and persistent at reclaiming items which belong to its cultural heritage.

Machu Picchu dates back to the 15th Century and is Peru's biggest tourist attraction.

The government has said it wants the Yale pieces back in time to celebrate the centenary of its discovery in 2011.

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