Machu Picchu

Peru ‘ignoring threat’ to Inca site

June 23, 2001 – BBC

A leading archaeologist has accused the Peruvian Government of failing to act on a report that suggests the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is in danger of falling off its mountain perch.

Dr Frederico Kauffmann is calling on the National Cultural Institute of Peru to urgently set up an inquiry into a recent survey by Japanese geologists who found the earth beneath Machu Picchu is moving.

According to the Japanese, there are alarming signs that the mountainside beneath the 2,250-metre-high city could give way in a potentially catastrophic landslide within the next few years.

To study the geological activity in the mountain, the researchers from the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at the Kyoto University set up sensitive instruments buried in the steepest slopes around the citadel.

The team found that the soils were moving at a rate of up to one centimetre a month.

The Incas were master stone-masons, crafting walls out of massive blocks of granite so tight fitting that it is impossible to slip a piece of paper between them. But gaps have begun to appear in some of the constructions, hinting at movement beneath.

Warning signs

All around the spectacular razor-back ridge that the Incas built on, there are other warning signs: deep scars on the jungle-clad slopes left by landslides caused by natural erosion in the geologically young Andean mountains.

The mountain perch where the Incas established their homage to the gods of the Sun and the Moon is also split by no less than five geological faults.

The Incas were aware of just how unstable the region was when they started building 500 years ago. They were careful to protect the city when they built the foundations, and they did such a good job that there’s very little damage to Machu Picchu until now.

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