Published On: Wed, Jan 31st, 2018

Driver Plows Truck into 2,000-Year-Old Nazca Lines Causing Irreversible Damage

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In a shocking example of destruction of a fragile archaeological site, a truck driver has been charged with careless driving and entering a prohibited zone after he accidentally drove his truck over the world-renowned Nazca lines in Peru.

The NAZCA lines are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are surrounded by warning signs that clearly prohibit people from entering the area and causing damage to the ancient site. However, AFP reports that the driver ignored the warnings and drove his truck straight over the top of three geoglyphs causing deep track marks that ran for 100 meters. The geoglyphs are so fragile that special shoes must be worn when walking around them to prevent damage to the landscape. The track marks from the truck are on a different scale of destruction altogether.

Parrot geoglyph at Nazca. Source: BigStockPhotos

Parrot geoglyph at Nazca. Source: BigStockPhotos

Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, some 400 km south of Lima, the geoglyphs of Nazca cover an incredible 450 km2. They are among archaeology’s greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometers long.  The Nazca lines number in their thousands and the vast majority of them date from 200 BC to 500 AD, to a time when a people referred to as the Nazca inhabited the region. Despite a plethora of research on these amazing creations, the purpose of the lines has eluded researchers ever since their discovery in 1927.

The images are fragile as they are made by moving the black rocks to reveal the white sand underneath. Further movement of the rocks is detrimental to the images.

The images are fragile as they are made by moving the black rocks to reveal the white sand underneath. Further movement of the rocks is detrimental to the images. ( CC BY 2.0 )

This is not the first time that the geoglyphs in Nazca have been damaged by human interference. In 2014, Greenpeace activists walked all over the ancient lines to place a huge message reading ‘Time for Change! The Future is Renewable’ – quite ironic that they were petitioning for consideration of our future while trampling all over our ancient past.

The non-profit organisation came under fire for their careless and irresponsible actions and Peruvian authorities charged the activists for damaging an archaeological monument of national significance. “They are absolutely fragile. They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” Peruvian deputy culture minister Luis Jaime Castillo told  The Guardian  at the time.

Greenpeace message on the landscape at Nazca next to an ancient geoglyph.

Greenpeace message on the landscape at Nazca next to an ancient geoglyph. ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

In 2015, a second case of vandalism involved a man writing ‘Artist: Luis Tadeo’ above a pelican geoglyph. The perpetrator has been sought after by officials for 6 years as it is not the first time he has written his name in the prohibited zone of the Nazca lines.

Despite a plethora of research on these amazing creations, scientists have not been able agree on the purpose of the lines ever since their discovery in 1927.  Some scientists maintain they are linked to the heavens with some representing constellations in the night sky. Other experts believe the lines are connected with water, something vital to life, yet hard to get in the desert, and may have played a part in water-based rituals. Still others have said they were intended as ‘messages to the gods’, or were created along ancient pilgrimage routes.

Hopefully the real purpose of this incredible ancient creation will one day come to light, but we have very little chance of discovering its secrets if the precious archaeological site cannot be protected from deteriorating forces such as this.

Top image: Image shows the level of damage caused by the truck driving into the protected archaeological site. (Image: Peruvian Ministry of Culture)

By April Holloway

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