AS IF ISIS looting and destroying precious artifacts and priceless antiquities in the name of ignorance was not enough, the world also has to deal with boorish tourists. Although the following cases of vandalism are not of the extent of what the Islamic State militants did to the 2,300-year-old city of Hatra (a UNESCO World Heritage site), or the ancient city of Nimrud, such destructive behaviours are nothing short of disrespect and sacrilege.
In May 2013, a Chinese teenager defaced a 3,500-year-old bas-relief in the Luxor Temple by carving “Ding Jihao was here” over hieroglyphics. After other chinese visitors noticed the graffiti, took a picture of it, and tweeted it, the perpetrator of the act was found and deemed a “national embarrassement.”
The parents of the then 15-year-old boy issued an apology to the Egyptian authorities and the Chinese people.
In October 2013, two Utah Boy Scout leaders thought a 25-million-year-old hoodoo presented an imminent danger for the kids they accompanied and consequently decided to topple it over and film themselves doing so. Sadly, they seem very proud of their accomplishment.
Hoodoos — also called goblins — are unusual rock formations that look like columns with rounded caps; although some may seem precariously balanced, you’re not supposed to knock them down.
They are also the main attraction of Goblin Valley State Park, so you’d think that Boy Scout leaders would know what they were all about.
The “good samaritans” lost their positions with the Boy Scouts and were sentenced to a year of probation and a fine.
In 2014, five people were caught for defacing the ancient amphitheater. The most recent occurrence took place only a few days ago when two Californian women carved their initials in the walls of the historical monument. Penalty for such vandalism can be very severe. Last November, a Russian man who carved a 25cm “K” into the bricks of the Colosseum was fined 20,000 euros and was given a four-month suspended prison sentence.
Photo: Chilean investigative police
In 2008, Marko Kulju, a Finnish tourist visiting the Chilean territory of Easter Island, chipped an earlobe off an ancient Moai. Authorities accused him of wanting a souvenir of one of the centuries-old statues carved out of volcanic rock.
The uproar that ensued Kulju’s act lead the mayor of Easter Island to say on public radio that he wished the tourist would get his ear clipped off too; “If an ear is cut off, then an ear gets cut.”
The Finnish man apologized and kept his ear, but he remained under house arrest for 13 days, was fined $17,000, and was banned from this part of the world for three years.
When pictures of graffiti vandalism in 8 US national parks were discovered on the Instagram and Tumblr accounts of someone using the pseudonym “Creepytings,” the authorities of the national parks involved were alerted and a suspect was very quickly found.
Although the vandal had made the social media accounts private when things started heating up for them, a young woman from New York named Casey Nocket was identified as the primary suspect for the graffitis found in Yosemite National Park, Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park in California; Rocky Mountain National Park and Colorado National Monument in Colorado; Crater Lake National Park in Oregon; and Zion National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The fact that she posted a picture of herself defacing a rock in one of the parks undoubtedly helped.
In one of the Instagram threads where the author proudly displayed their “work”, they admitted using acrylic paint and declared: “I know, I’m a bad person.”
Whether the vandal’s acts were caused by ignorance or narcissism, it’s obvious that they have no idea what “protected sites” or the principle “Leave No Trace” mean.
Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, and in December 2014, on the day of the winter solstice, 1,500 people came to watch the sunrise at the ancient site in Wiltshire.
After the annual celebration, the stones’ curator explained to the BBC that chewing gum was stuck on the stones, excrements were found on the site, and each stone was marked with indelible oil.
Sadly, due to the recurring vandalism taking place during these events, it is only a matter of time before people coming to celebrate the solstice be banned from approaching the stones.
If there is one place that should keep you solemn, it’s the Auschwitz museum. But apparently some visitors don’t think that respectful and dignified behaviours apply there either.
According to The Telegraph in May 2014, ” visitors have scratched messages onto bunks where prisoners once slept […] In some cases vandals have etched their name with the tag “was here” onto walls and furniture, while one wrote “I had a smoke here.” Others have stolen items such as bits of barbed wire and spikes from railway line that transported people to the infamous camp […]”
The total ignorance of such visitors is beyond words.