Machu Picchu was largely on the DL until 1911, when Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham rediscovered the site and brought these important ruins into the public eye. He also picked up some souvenirs along the way. According to the article, Bingham brought back thousands of “ceramics, bone fragments, and metal pieces” to New Haven, the American city. Not just thousands. Forty-six thousand.
In 2010, Yale and the Peruvian government sealed a deal that mandated the return of these artifacts. Two years later, the handoff is complete, and those bones can rest in peace in Cusco.
Will this be part of a larger trend to return artifacts to their homelands? Our eyes are on the Elgin Marbles, currently housed in London’s British Museum. Greece lost its marbles two hundred years ago and has since been fighting to get them back. Lord Elgin, also known as “Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Sublime Porte of Selim III, Sultan of Ottoman Empire,” brought the national treasure from Greece to Britain in 1812. In retrospect, this was probably way more controversial than the war of 1812, which was not controversial at all.
Which will crumble first: the Greek economy or the Parthenon? We’re not sure. But in the meantime, here’s to a fully furnished Machu Picchu. #SPRINGBREAK2013!