The article, by reporter David Glenn, explained a federal lawsuit filed against Yale University by the government of Peru, which alleges the university holds thousands of objects that Hiram Bingham III supposedly took on temporary loan in the early 20th century and never returned. Bingham was a legendary Yale archaeologist who, after his third and final expedition to southern Peru, shipped home 74 boxes of artifacts from Machu Picchu, a site in the Andes believed to be the last major settlement of the Incas.
The government filed the lawsuit in December, a year after the dispute appeared to be resolved. Museum directors and archeologists around the world are watching the case because it might encourage other nations to try to take back artifacts that are valuable parts of collections, Glenn wrote.
Yale has moved to dismiss the case, saying Peru filed the action in the wrong court, and that its claims would be "stale and meritless" in any venue, according to Glenn's article.
The university claims Peru's Civil Code of 1862 established private rights on found objects and cannot be overridden by a decree written in 1912 that granted the Peruvian government the right to demand the return of certain objects.
Furnish, author of a paper in 1971 titled "The Hierarchy of Peruvian Laws," said that, during the period of Bingham's expeditions, the Peruvian government routinely passed such laws and decrees that placed qualifications on various parts of the Civil Code.
"It's extremely glib and facile for Yale to cite this broad provision in the Civil Code," he said. "It would be like me decimating some Indian site here in Arizona and then saying, `Hey, the U.S. Constitution guarantees property rights'."
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