Machu Picchu Tourists Arrested for Allegedly Committing 'Crime Against Cultural Heritage' Inside Sacred Incan Temple

Six tourists have been arrested for allegedly damaging and defecating in a sacred temple at Machu Picchu in Peru. Built in the 15th century A.D., the Incan architectural complex is one of the most well-preserved ancient ruins in the world today.

The group, which includes a French woman, two Brazilians, two Argentines and a Chilean, were condemned for their alleged "crime against cultural heritage" committed at the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cusco, AFP reports.

The tourists were arrested after police and park officials spotted them in a restricted area of the Temple of the Sun, a key site of the ancient citadel. Several areas of the temple are off limits to tourists for preservation purposes.

Local authorities were reported to have found feces in the temple, as well as a "fracture" in a piece of stone that had "broken off a wall and caused a crack in the floor," according to Cusco regional police chief Wilbert Leyva, local Peruvian news agency Andina reports.

"The six tourists are being detained and investigated by the public ministry for the alleged crime against cultural heritage," Leyva said.

The tourists face at least four years in prison if they are found guilty of damaging the country's heritage, AFP reports.

Elevated in the middle of a tropical rain forest, against the dramatic landscape of the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, Machu Picchu is one of "the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilization," UNESCO notes.

Made of nearly 200 structures set on a steep ridge and crossed by a series of stone terraces, "to this day, many of Machu Picchu's mysteries remain unresolved, including the exact role it may have played in the Incas' sophisticated understanding of astronomy and domestication of wild plant species," UNESCO adds.

The latest incident isn't the first time tourists have been arrested at the Peruvian world wonder. Last August, two Austrian tourists were arrested after they were reported to have stripped naked and snapped pictures of themselves against the backdrop of the sacred site. The pair were immediately expelled and banned from the complex.

"Despite the instructions and recommendations given to tourists from the moment they buy their entrance tickets, some bad ones continue to perform these types of immodest acts. We must understand that this is a sacred space, this is Machu Picchu, not Disneyland," José M. Bastante, head of archaeological research at Machu Picchu, told local media at the time, the Daily Star reported.

Machu Picchu Peru Inca site
View of the Machu Picchu complex captured on December 30, 2014. Getty Images

Machu Picchu is not the only UNESCO site to have been disrespected by tourists in recent months. Back in November last year, tourists were reported to have defaced a 1,300-year-old Mayan temple in Guatemala. Two tourists were found carving "A + T" onto a wall of the Tikal Temple II of the UNESCO-designated Tikal National Park, one of the world's largest Mayan archaeological sites, the Daily Mail reported.

In the same month, a man was arrested for scribbling graffiti onto the wall of Japan's Ryoanji temple in Kyoto, which dates back to the 11th century A.D. The man was reported to have written on a white wall of the Sanmon gate of the UNESCO World Heritage Site using blue, red and black oil-based markers, The Asahi Shimbun reports.