LIMA, Peru — Peru's government formally asked US President Barack Obama this week to assist Peruvian efforts to get Yale University to return thousands of artifacts taken from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
In a letter to Obama, President Alan Garcia said it was "just and necessary" for Obama to intervene on Peru's behalf, so the South American nation can recover its cultural heritage.
The Peruvian government and Yale are at odds over possession of the artifacts, including funeral shrouds, bones, textiles and ceramics. Peru demands their return, while Yale hopes to negotiate a settlement over the artifacts, which were removed about a century ago.
"President and great friend, almost 100 years have passed since then and despite the many requests made on different occasions by successive Peruvian governments, Yale University has not returned to the Peruvian Government the property of Machu Picchu," Garcia wrote to Obama.
His letter was delivered by hand by Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde to the US ambassador in Peru, Rose Likins.
Peru has had a lawsuit pending in US District Court in Connecticut since 2008 demanding Yale return all artifacts taken by scholar Hiram Bingham III between 1911 and 1915.
Yale says that it returned dozens of boxes of artifacts in 1921 and that Peru knew it would retain some. The school describes the artifacts, housed at its Peabody Library, as "primarily fragments of ceramic, metal and bone" and says it recreated some objects from fragments.