Peru Asks New York Museum to Return Its Artifacts


For decades, museums in rich countries have displayed archaeological treasures from Egypt, Ethiopia and Peru, without many people stopping to think about how those objects arrived there in the first place.

Now, poorer nations are starting to ask for their archeological treasures to be returned.


The latest request came last week from officials in Peru, who asked New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to return more than 400 artifacts from the Moche culture, a wealthy, pre-Incan civilization that inhabited Peru's northern coast nearly 2,000 years ago.

The artifacts include golden nose plates worn by members of the Moche nobility. There are also intricate copper masks, golden necklaces, and small sculptures of animals. Here are some pictures of the items from the Met's catalog:


According to Peruvian officials, the artifacts come from Loma Negra, a burial site near the northern town of Piura.

Cultural officials in Piura said the items were stolen by grave robbers in the 1960s. They found their way to New York's Museum of Primitive Art in the 1970s, and from there they were transferred to the Met, according to Peruvian officials.


Officials acknowledged their efforts to get the items returned could last years, partly because Piura doesn't yet have a museum where the items could be exhibited.

"We can appeal to the goodwill of the American government, but we also need to build a museum that would justify our efforts," archaeologist Walter Alva told Peru’s El Comercio newspaper.



Peru has had some success recovering its archeological treasures from abroad. In 2008, the South American nation filed a lawsuit against Yale University, which eventually forced the Ivy League school to return more than 35,000 pottery fragments taken from Machu Picchu in the early 20th century. Peru also recently convinced Sweden to return a collection of ancient fabrics, known as the Paraca textiles.


The Metropolitan Museum did not respond to Fusion's request for comment by press time.

Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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