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American Tourists Allegedly Carve Initials Into Rome's Colosseum

03/09/2015 02:19 am ET | Updated Mar 10, 2015

Two tourists from California are accused of carving their initials into Rome's Colosseum on Saturday and posing for a selfie.

The unidentified women, aged 21 and 25, were arrested after the alleged vandalism, The Guardian reports. They reportedly snuck away from their tour group and scratched their initials, J and N, into the amphitheater with a coin.

Signs posted in both English and Italian make the law very clear: Defacing walls is illegal at the Colosseum. Yet vandalism happens and tourists have been fined as much as $25,000 in the past for such violations.

"There’s a difference in perception. Museums are treated like churches, sacred places where there are things of great value. Whereas the Colosseum is an incomplete building which has already been robbed," a spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome told The Guardian.

The suspects may go in front of an Italian judge to face penalties. Buzzfeed reports that they apologized, saying, "We regret it, but we did not imagine it was something so serious."

Italian media tweeted photos of the vandalism, which appears to show the letters J and N carved into the brick of the ancient World Heritage site.

The Colosseum undergoes constant cleaning due to vandalism and natural decay. In 2013, officials unveiled several discoveries during a restoration project, including new frescoes as well as ancient graffiti and drawings of phallic symbols.

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