September 28, 2010 / 1:19 PM / 8 years ago

Peru president says Yale must return Inca relics

A view of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Cuzco in this November, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian president Alan Garcia demanded Monday that Yale University return the archeological treasures its researchers “looted” from the country’s Machu Picchu site in the early 1900s.

Peru says Yale took some 40,000 of artifacts including pottery, jewelry and bones from the site in the Peruvian Andes.

“Either we come to an understanding regarding ... Machu Picchu, or we’ll simply have to describe them as looters of treasures,” Garcia said referring to Yale University.

The artifacts were sent out of Peru after a Yale alumnus, U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham, rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. The Andean country argues the objects were loaned to Yale for 18 months but never sent back.

“Now is the time to start packing up the things and send then over together with the research. ... Silence would indicate that they are guilty of robbery,” Garcia said.

At the time of Bingham’s find, the ancient city, now a tourist hot spot, was essentially forgotten, covered by thick forest in the mountains some 8,000 feet above sea level.

Peru is dotted with hundreds of archeological sites and has struggled for years to combat trafficking of fossils and artifacts.

Reporting by Patricia Velez; Writing by Eduardo Garcia, editing by Philip Barbara

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