Just before 6am on Sunday, January 12, six tourists were discovered trespassing on Machu Picchu, Peru. The trespassers, who were caught by park staff members, had illegally entered the site on Saturday night and allegedly caused one of the stones from the Temple of the Sun to fall 20 feet to the ground. It is believed that the trespassers may also have defecated on the sacred Inca site grounds.
The trespassers, four men and two women, are from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and France. Five were immediately deported to Bolivia by Peruvian authorities, and the sixth was arrested and held for questioning after admitting he played a lead role in the crime. Peru’s Ministry of Culture has condemned the trespassers’ actions and called for all visitors to Peru’s archaeological sites to respect and protect their heritage.
Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is remotely located 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes. Constructed in the 15th century, this Inca site was once a key religious and political center for the ancient civilization and still contains hundreds of built structures of fine stonework. The site has become an iconic symbol of Peru and of archeological heritage worldwide and hosts over one million visitors each year, which has raised concerns for many archaeologists and Peruvian officials, concerns that can only be growing after this latest case of vandalism.
(Original story in the February-March 2020 "News in Conservation" Issue 76, p. 9)