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Overview of Machu Picchu, agriculture terraces and Huayna Picchu peak in the background   Source: davidionut / Adobe stock

Sacrilegious Tourists Defecate at the Sun Temple of Machu Picchu

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Six disgusting travelers are being accused of willfully damaging and defecating in the sacred Sun Temple of Machu Picchu and are facing jail time. Lots hopefully.

Machu Picchu is in Peru’s top three most visited tourist attractions, and this ancient Inca citadel is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The six tourists were arrested on Sunday morning following allegations that they had damaged a portion of the site, and that they also defecated in the most sacred building. Wilbert Leyva, the Cusco regional police chief, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), that the six tourists are being “detained and investigated” by the public ministry for the alleged crimes against cultural heritage.

Offerings of Gold Replaced by Feces

Machu Picchu is not like most other Inca sites and its grandeur reflects its status as a ‘royal’ estate of the ruling Inca family based in the city of Cusco. Constructed in the mid-15 th century by Inca Pachacutec Yupanqui and completed by Túpac Inca Yupanqui, one can think of Machu Picchu as being what Balmoral Castle is to the Royal Family of the UK. Since 1852 the Royals have escaped London to their remote highland retreat, as far away from the poor people as physically possible. No nationalism intended, even though I am a Scot, but both Balmoral and Machu Picchu were most frequented when diseases broke out in London and Cusco respectively.

The Torreon of Machu Picchu, or Temple of the Sun, is a semicircular astronomical observatory and temple built with carefully smoothed ashlars and the famous ‘solstice window,’ according to a paper published in the 1983 Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement. Every year at the June Solstice sunrise, this window “receives the first light.” This Sun Temple was the holiest of things for the Inca Empire, the sanctum sanctorum, where the Inca rulers connected with their Sun god Inti.

A ‘solstice window’ at Machu Picchu. (Uwe Bergwitz / Adobe stock)

A ‘solstice window’ at Machu Picchu. (Uwe Bergwitz / Adobe stock)

Ancient Inca Site Under Attack

According to Leyva, the authorities discovered the group of six tourists in the sacred temple, which is a “restricted portion of the temple.” They had not only apparently “broken off” part of the ancient stone wall, but they had also “cracked the floor.” To picture someone repeatedly smashing the floor with a stone stolen from the wall is horrific, but what is worst of all, is that the officials also found feces in the most sacred Sun Temple.

Several areas of the semicircular Temple of the Sun are “off-limits” to visitors, according to the AFP report. This is because the authorities know that this single temple is among the most sacred sites at the ancient Inca citadel, to which worshippers made pilgrimages for hundreds of miles specifically to make offerings to the Sun god Inti.

‘Temple of the Sun’ or the ‘Sun Temple’, in the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, Peru. (cristian / Adobe stock)

‘Temple of the Sun’ or the ‘Sun Temple’, in the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, Peru. (cristian / Adobe stock)

The Neglect of Sacred Sites Is Increasing

A Fox News report says that a representative for Peru 's Ministry of Culture confirmed that “if found guilty”, the six tourists: one from France, two from Brazil, two from Argentina and one from Chile, could face up to four years in prison. As atrocious as this is for Peru it is not the only country facing shocking and increasing neglect to sacred sites and the environment.

At ‘Uluru’ in Australia, the famous sacred rise in the indigenous Australian landscape, which began forming about 550 million years ago, shocking acts have also been committed by tourists. Stephen Schwer, chief executive of Tourism Central Australia, told SMH “we are seeing increases in rubbish and illegal roadside camping and generally the kind of behavior, which degrades the environment.”

The Uluru site in Australia. (beau / Adobe stock)

The Uluru site in Australia. (beau / Adobe stock)

Lyndee Severin, manager of the Curtin Springs inn and campground about 100 kilometers from Uluru, told News.Com.Au that “campers with portable chemical toilets were simply emptying them along the road, because they didn't want to stand in line to dump them properly, and this is often on organic cattle farms and it might threaten the farm's organic accreditation.”

Attempting to Answer “Why?”

In a 2019 Ancient Origins news article about the Australia reports Dr Rob Wallace, a representative of the anti-litter nonprofit Keep America Beautiful, who in a Psychology Today article said, some people litter because they feel “disenfranchised from society” and often feel powerless. He added that in some sense littering serves much the same purpose as graffiti, a sort of, “I was here.”

Social psychologists admit that they are a long way from figuring out how to deter certain folk in modern society from being outright pigs. But in the stark light of day, Peruvian authorities have to take this one on the chin and accept that their ‘out of bounds’ signs simply were, and are, not secure enough. This admission in no way detracts from the outstanding work of the Tourism Police of late.

Watching You at Machu Picchu

With support from a new control center and increased communications with the Tourism Police, the Machu Picchu website details its extensive efforts to keep tourists visiting Machu Picchu safe. A 230-kilometer-long “policed security corridor” runs through Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Then when you get to Machu Picchu a “24 hours a day security system” is in force.

A series of high-quality security cameras are strategically placed at the site, and they connect with a modern digital communication system, which allows the Tourism Police to control all motorized units and officers patrolling on foot. But the fact is, all this wasn’t enough, and the police must be absolutely furious that six idiots would crawl under their systems: just as low as snakes’ bellies, each one of them.

If I had it my way, Machu Picchu would be completely closed to the public with viewing stages erected at controlled areas, with tourist facilities including toilets. Second to this, a string of low-voltage electric fences and laser movement detectors would certainly deter the human-dogs among us from defecating on sacred land.

These acts endanger all other visitors who might come into contact with it, and especially indigenous Peruvians. For they know all too well that their immune systems have no chance against foreign diseases, and it is estimated that 90% of the 10 million plus Incas who died during the Spanish holocaust of the 16th century, did so not by the savage steel of a conquistadors sword, but by their diseases.

Top image: Overview of Machu Picchu, agriculture terraces and Huayna Picchu peak in the background   Source: davidionut / Adobe stock

By Ashley Cowie



Mary Madeline's picture

I just can't get my head to understand why they would do this. They are adults with no respect for something so special. After 4 years hopefully they will gain some respect for not only The Sacred Sun Temple but the world.

Mary Madeline

4 years is not really enough ...
I personally would love for them to limit numbers visiting by requiring a special 'visa' or pass or permit. Make it an official governmental 'tour' that the transport to and a tour guide are part of the permit, and it *costs*, costs a *lot* for non-natives [because it is their heritage, after all.] Maybe if they have to jump through hoops, and pay through the nose for it they might respect it, or at least the penalties can be exponentially more expensive. If you can't just hop onto a train and a bus to get there but make it special one might be able to weed out the assholes. If not, if they have to have an escort, they will be hesitant to break the rules because the groups will be small enough and restricted enough to monitor the members for antisocial behaviors.

Archaeologists and officials have to decide, in today’s climate of indifference and abhorrent disrespect, if they can allow tourists any longer at some sacred sites.  The actions of these tourists is unconsciounable and can’t be allowed to go unpunished.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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