Publicity stunt damages Word Heritage Site, enrages Peruvians

Red lines depict damage done to Nazca Lines
Picture shows iconic Hummingbird in the protected archeological site of the Nazca lines. Red lines show area damaged by Greenpeace activists step’s and banner. Photo credit: Cap. Juan Carlos Ruiz

The Nazca lines are shallow scratches in the sand, made just deep enough to uncover a bright-colored sand that contrast beautifully with a dark top layer of sand and gravel. The most attractive of the lines depict animals that are only distinguishable from the air, but the most intriguing ones are large geometrical forms and mile-long lines pointing to specific directions, signaling to things important for the indigenous population thousands of years ago, but that we have not completely deciphered yet.

Last Monday, December 8th, a group of members of Greenpeace from seven different countries (none of them Peruvian) entered a protected archaeological site surrounding the figure of ” El Colibrí” (the hummingbird) to install a banner visible from the air. They did it without authorization, without proper inspection of local archaeologists, and without wearing the obligatory protective gear (think snowshoes but designed for the Nazca sand).

Nazca Line protective gear:

Proper protective gear to work near the Nazca lines (http://geoextrema.com/2014/12/greenpeace-atenta-contra-las-lineas-de-nazca/)
Proper protective gear to work near the Nazca lines (http://geoextrema.com/2014/12/greenpeace-atenta-contra-las-lineas-de-nazca/)

As a publicity stunt probably bodes very well for Greenpeace, it is timed with the COP 20 in Lima, Perú. And every single newspaper in Perú will be covering it. But they damaged a beloved symbol for the Peruvians, declared a World Heritage Site by the Unesco. The stunt is not gaining popular support for their cause in Perú, specially because a protest with a banner in a foreign language placed  in one of the most recognized national symbols rubs the wrong way to many Peruvians. The fact that they damaged the lines by ignoring the proper procedures to treat such a valuable archeological site makes their stunt very risky, as they may face legal prosecution.

This is not the first time the lines are damaged in modern times.  Clandestine mining, the perils of continuous tourist overflights, and recreational vehicles circulating around the figures have taken a toll in the protected area. Keeping the lines intact for the future generations is a constant battle. The María Reiche foundation is one of the Peruvian institutions trying to preserve the lines, and they have a very simple response to Greenpeace: “To protect our environment doesn’t mean to destroy our heritage”.

Hopefully this latest damage would bring enough attention not only to Greenpeace, but to the Nazca lines, a wonderful cultural heritage of humanity that needs more attention, and better protection.

Update 12/10/2014. For people not familiar with the state of the lines before the banner, here is a link to a picture taken on April 2014. http://www.tripadvisor.cl/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g304044-i96658006-Nazca_Ica_Region.html

Useful links (in Spanish):

COP 20: Greenpeace hace protesta en las líneas de Nazca

GREENPEACE ATENTA CONTRA LAS LINEAS DE NAZCA

9 FOTOS QUE DEMUESTRAN QUE LOS GENIOS DE GREENPEACE SÍ DAÑARON LAS LÍNEAS DE NAZCA

Mincul: Greenpeace cometió una infracción en las líneas de Nasca

Los geoglifos de Nasca y Palpa (Ica-Perú). Tres Factores que contribuyen a su destrucción paulatina y constante.

VIDEO: Giant Greenpeace protest banner set up beside ancient Nazca Lines – no comment TV

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Author: Ivan Fernando Gonzalez

I am a bilingual scientist, science communicator, and community builder. I use storytelling and my multidisciplinary scientific training to connect communities and to amplify the positive impact of science. Find more at: www.ivanfgonzalez.com

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