On July 28, Peru celebrated two centuries of independence. And just in time for the festivities, the United States’ Smithsonian Institution returned to Peru the formerly-named Echenique Disc, a chest ornament about thirteen and a half centimeters [5.3inches] in diameter, made of gold, silver and copper alloy. The ornament pre-dates the Incan empire and is thought to have been crafted between 800 BCE and 1 AD.
It was gifted, along with other precious items, to then-Peruvian president José Rufino Echenique on his visit to Cuzco in 1853. Thereafter, the entire cache was lost in a fire, but much later, the disc reappeared in the collection of a German who had sold it to another collector, named George G. Heye, in 1912. Heye donated it to a museum in New York. The disc was eventually housed in the National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian Institution, a group of museums and educational research centers created by the U.S. government.
The United States works with countries around the world, including Peru, to help protect and preserve their ancient and historic monuments, objects, and archaeological sites. In 1997, as part of an effort to prevent and counter the trafficking of valuable artifacts, the United States and Peru signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection of cultural property. In June 2021, another Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the specific goal of returning the Echenique Disc to Peru, just in time for the bicentennial celebration.
Upon its arrival in Lima, Peru’s capital, the Echenique Disc was re-named the Sun Disc, declared to be the “Cultural Patrimony of the Nation,” and transferred to the Museum of Regional History in Cuzco. Cuzco, which adopted the Disc as its official symbol in 1986, welcomed its priceless artifact back home after 168 years.
Cultural heritage artifacts are priceless reflections of history, cultures, and civilizations. The United States cooperates with countries around the world to promote the protection and preservation of cultural heritage.