|A view of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Cuzco in this November, 2003 file photo.
Peru plans to sue Yale University for the return of 4,900 artifacts taken from Machu Picchu, the fabled Inca citadel, by a U.S. explorer nearly a century ago, the government said on Thursday.
Peru's National Culture Institute, or INC, said the artifacts, which include Incaceramics, cloths, metalwork and human bones, were lent to Yale for 18 months in 1916, but the New Haven, Connecticut, university has made them part of its collection.
"Unfortunately, this has to be resolved via the courts because Yale claims ownership and doesn't want to give these artifacts back," INC Director Luis Lumbreras told reporters.
"We're not talking about ancient masterpieces, but they are emblematic of Peruvian culture and by law we are required to seek their return," Lumbreras said, adding Peru still had the 1916 loan document.
Officials from Yale's anthropology department were not immediately available for comment. The university has argued it is the legal owner of the artifacts and allows thousands of people to view them every year, inspiring many to visit Machu Picchu.
Lumbreras said the lawsuit would be filed in Connecticut state court in the next few months, but a higher, international tribunal may make the final decision.
Peru was seeking to retrieve the artifacts now because it aimed to put them on public display in 2011 for the centenary of Machu Picchu's rediscovery by U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham.
Bingham, a Yale alumni, found Machu Picchu in the southern Andes under thick forest in 1911.
Machu Picchu was probably the sanctuary of Inca Emperor Pachacutec and lay at the heart of the Inca empire, which dominated South America from Colombia to Chile until beingtoppledby Spanish conquerors in the 1530s.