Machu Picchu Still Rock-Solid
by Sophie Arie
Machu Picchu, the gem of Peru's Inca heritage, a huge sacred city nestling between two mountain peaks 8400 feet (2,550 meters) up in the Andes, has taken its knocks in recent years.
Enthusiastic Peruvian archeologists have tampered with some of the five centuries-old temples in the name of "restoration" and a 1,000-pound (450-kilogram) crane was dropped on a sacred sundial during the filming of a beer commercial, causing some damage.
But perhaps few imagined that the whole city, the Inca's last refuge from the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, now a UNESCO world heritage site, would ultimately be destroyed by its own dramatic, tectonically mobile Andean location.
Not until a few months ago, when a Japanese team of scientists announced that Machu Picchu was shifting over a fatal set of fault lines, had slipped 0.4 inches (one centimeter) downhill in just one month, and could come crashing down into the Urubamba River below at any time.
"This (slip) is quite fast and it is a precursor stage of a rock fall or rock slide," said Kyoji Sassa of Kyoto University's Disaster Prevention Research Unit in a report in the UK magazine New Scientist.
The Peruvian authorities, who depend on Machu Picchu and the famous Inca Trail leading from nearby Cuzco to the site as the country's main tourist draw, played down the scare saying Machu Picchu had survived 500 years of natural phenomena and tourists should not panic. The authorities called for more research to establish the true scale of the threat.
To see the city of Machu Picchu, Peru without the crowds, you need to arrive with the sun at the crack of dawn.
Photo: Sophie Arie
The Sun Temple, the only round building in the city, is the most perfectly constructed of all. But subsidence has caused the snugly fitted stones to move apart.
Photo: Sophie Arie
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