LIMA — Peru on Wednesday gave a grandiose welcome to several hundred artefacts returned one century after they were "loaned" to Yale University from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Some 600 police oversaw the transfer of the 30 containers from Lima airport to the presidency in a convoy of trucks, broadcast live on TV.
"They are treasures, even though they're not made of gold or precious stones, because they represent the dignity and pride of Peru," said President Alan Garcia, surrounded by ministers, before there was a gun salute for the artefacts.
Machu Picchu, a UNESCO world heritage site, stands on Peru's eastern slopes of the Andes, some 2,430 meters (7,970 feet) above sea level, and has long been South America's most popular tourist attraction.
The 366 pieces from the 15th century site include ceramics and bones found by US archaeologist Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century.
Around 1,000 fragments were also returned Wednesday.
Yale agreed to return some 45,000 items for the centennial of the site's "discovery," in an accord last year, following a long campaign by Peru.
Culture Minister Juan Ossio said they should all be returned by the end of 2012.
Bingham took the artefacts to the US university between 1912 and 1916 on loan from Peru.
They will now be briefly displayed in Lima before a transfer to the University of Cusco, at the heart of the former Inca empire in southeast Peru.
Garcia led an intensive media and diplomatic campaign to bring the objects back in time for celebrations, planned in July, for the "Western discovery" of Machu Picchu by Bingham.
Bingham is famed for coming upon Machu Picchu in June 1911 and bringing it to international renown.
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