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News > Latin America

Toll-Dodging Truck Damages 2,000-Year-Old Sacred Peru Geoglyphs

  • The Nazca geoglyph of a monkey is seen on the plains of the Nazca desert in southern Peru.

    The Nazca geoglyph of a monkey is seen on the plains of the Nazca desert in southern Peru. | Photo: REUTERS via World Monuments Fund

Published 7 February 2018

The driver, who told authorities he was "unfamiliar with the area," ignored several warning signs and drove his heavy hauler straight through the Unesco heritage site.

A trucker trying to dodge toll roads has hauled his tractor-trailer through Peru's sacred Nazca lines, damaging three of the famed geoglyphs – made by moving rocks and earth to create a "negative" image on the Earth's surface.

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Jainer Jesus Flores Vigo, 40, told authorities he was "unfamiliar with the area." He ignored several signs and drove straight through an area covering 350 meters of the Unesco World Heritage site, leaving deep marks in the dry land.

The national prosecutor's office tried to have the driver placed in preventive detention and bring charges in the hope he would be fined US$1,550 and imprisoned for nine months, but the judge threw out the case, saying there wasn't enough evidence to indict.

The outcome has dismayed Peruvians and foreigners alike, and Nasca's attorney general of Nasca is now appealing the judge's decision.

Johnny Isla, of the Ministry of Culture, said: "While the Culture Ministry monitors areas with the largest concentration of geoglyphs every day, it may not be fully protected. Entry and transit are possible through valleys and streams where the archaeological area spreads out."

In 2014 Greenpeace damaged some of the site while laying down large cloth letters near a hummingbird figure. Two years earlier, landless settlers allegedly damaged a Nazca-era cemetery in the area.

The lines, as they are known, comprise more than 800 straight lines and at least 70 plant and animal designs etched into the top layers of Nazca's desert, about 320km southeast of the capital, Lima.

Some of the straight lines are an impressive 50km in length, while dozens of other images have yet to be identified by scientists.

The Nazca lines were created between 2000 and 2,500 years ago by the Nazca society who lived in the arid region.

Johan Reinhard, author of The Nasca Lines: A New Perspective on their Origin and Meanings, writes: "It seems likely that most of the lines... led to places where rituals were performed to obtain water and fertility of crops."

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