The Peruvian Ullo temple
with its giant phalli seemed to good to be true – a largely intact
temple in which a cult of fertility had survived the onslaught of Christianity?
Recently, it has been made obvious that it was indeed too good to be
Inca Ullo temple in Chucuito was not on our tour programme. It was on
other tours’ programme though. Why was this? The local tour guide
did not really give an answer. In retrospect, it seemed that tours with
foreign guides visited the Ullo temple, but the local guides stayed
away from it. Were the Peruvians ashamed of a temple that had been labelled
a “temple of fertility”, as it contained several giant erect
phalli? In retrospect, the answer is no – and though we did not
realise it at the time, the locals must have known: this temple was
Less than a year after our non-visit, the media reported that the site
had been built in the early 1990s – 1993 – by people from
Chucuito. The “ruins” were then dated to the 16th century,
interpreted as a site where women would come to pray and ask for fertility.
A total of 24 giant phalli grazed the site, some as high as 1.5 metres,
some allegedly pointing towards the sun god Inti and the Earth goddess
Pachamama… and thousands of visitors came to take photographs.
It seems that the locals were upset to see so many busses pass by, without
stopping. The area of Lake Titicaca, around Puno, is a main tourist
centre. On the way to Tiahuanaco, it was clear that there was room for
an added photo opportunity. And once the tourists have descended from
their busses, the locals can sell them their goods – injecting
money into the local economy.
But what would make
tourists stop? There are many Inca ruins, and around Lake Titicaca,
the normal stops are Tiahuanaco, Puno for the floating islands of the
Uros and its population and occasionally Sillustani. De Chullpas de
Sillustani is one of the most important necropolae of the world, some
chullpas measuring over 12 metres high. Hence, just another ruin would
not do… but surely a temple of fertility with phalli would do
it? And it did: the fortuitous discovery resulted in thousands of visitors
stopping… the plan had worked.
Still, this was not merely the initiative of a few local villagers.
They actually convinced the local authorities to invest money in their
project – in an effort to bring tourism to the region. Rolando
Paredes, director of the National Culture Institue of Puno, commented
that "People have literally created a myth."
the story broke in early 2005, it was briefly but widely reported in
the media, but not widely followed up. At this particular paragraph,
this article seems to be the longest one written yet on the subject.
Though Ananova ran it, though the English tabloid The Sun featured it
– after all, it had a male anatomy connection, so their readers
would have demanded it – no further reports were forthcoming.
archaeologists were sceptical from the beginning. The site was near
two churches. The Catholic Church was iconoclastic throughout the Incan
world and a temple containing nothing but stone phalli would most surely
have featured on their hit list. That something could miraculously survive
the onslaught of Christianity, was indeed the telltale sign that this
was a fake… In the end, it seems that the temple is indeed one
of fertility – but of fertile imagination…