The historic Nazca Lines of Peru have been damaged by the actions of an inconsiderate truck driver. The driver, who has since been arrested and will likely face charges related to an attack against cultural heritage, deliberately drove off the Pan-American highway and into the 2,000 year old UNESCO Heritage Site. Ignoring signs identifying the protected area, the driver left “deep scars” through the Nazca geoglyphs across an area of 100 by 300 feet. Fortunately, the damage seems to be fixable, though authorities are still conducting a full investigation of the incident.
Carved into the desert by a pre-Inca civilization, the Nazca Lines are thought to have held religious significance and likely served as a site for spiritual ceremonies. Though virtually invisible if viewed from ground level, the geoglpyhs come to life when seen from above, whether on planes or surrounding foothills. The lines were originally created by removing the red pebbles that cover the ground to reveal the pale ground beneath. Because of the climactic stability of the Nazca region, located along Peru’s arid coastal plain, these ancient designs remain relatively untouched, the occasional errant truck driver notwithstanding.
The Nazca Lines’s proximity to the Pan-American Highway, which runs 19,000 miles long from the United States to Argentina, has increased the potential for human-caused damage to the ancient site. One high-profile instance occurred in 2014, when Greenpeace activists faced criminal charges for damage inflicted on the heritage site whilst setting up a massive sign urging climate change action. While the most recent incident has prompted Peruvian authorities to increase patrols of the area, there are no guarantees. “While the Culture Ministry monitors areas with the largest concentration of geoglyphs every day, it may not be fully protected,” Peruvian Culture Ministry archaeologist Johnny Isla told Andina. “Entry and transit are possible through valleys and streams where the archaeological area spreads out.”