updated 9/16/2007 9:04:52 AM ET 2007-09-16T13:04:52

Yale University has agreed to return thousands of Inca artifacts taken from Peru's famed Machu Picchu citadel almost a century ago, the government said Saturday.

"Finally it has been established that Peru is the owner of each one of the pieces," Housing Minister Hernan Garrido Lecca, who led negotiations with Yale, told Lima's Radioprogramas radio.

The New Haven, Connecticut-based university said in a statement on its Web site that some of the pieces will remain there temporarily for research, but did not specify how many.

Peru demanded the collection back last year, saying it never relinquished ownership when Yale scholar Hiram Bingham III rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911.

All told he exported more than 4,000 artifacts including mummies, ceramics and bones from what has become one of the world's most famous archaeological sites.

Yale responded with a proposal to split the collection. Negotiations broke down, and Peru threatened a lawsuit.

Under the agreement, Yale and Peru will co-sponsor first a traveling expedition featuring Bingham's pieces and later a museum in the Andean city of Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital.

"This understanding represents a new model of international cooperation providing for the collaborative stewardship of cultural and natural treasures," Yale said in the statement.

The ruins at Machu Picchu, located on a mountaintop above a lush valley southeast of Lima, are Peru's top tourist attraction.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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