Peru says Yale has over 40,000 Machu Picchu relics

A view of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Cuzco March 24, 2008. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru says Yale University researchers took more than 40,000 artifacts from the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in the early 1900s, or 10 times the original estimate, the state news agency reported on Sunday.

A team from Peru’s National Institute of Culture traveled to the U.S. university in March to take an inventory of the pieces of pottery, jewelry and bones housed there, as part of an agreement to repatriate the relics.

Hernan Garrido Lecca, who is leading Peru’s drive to reclaim the objects, released the inventory results to state news agency Andina.

The artifacts were sent out of Peru after a Yale alumnus, U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham, rediscovered Machu Picchu in the Andes in 1911.

Peru has said the objects were loaned to Yale for 18 months but never sent back.

At the time of Bingham’s find, the ancient city, now a popular tourist destination, was essentially forgotten, covered by thick forest in the mountains at 8,400 feet above sea level.

Museums around the world are facing demands by countries from Peru to Greece and Egypt to return ancient treasures.

Reporting by Jean Luis Arce; Writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by Bill Trott