The Nazca Lines, which face a number of threats because they are spread over such a wide territory, were recently given some good news.
Efforts to protect them have been given an important boost, through a $150,000 grant awarded by this year’s United States’ Ambassador’s Fund, which finances cultural preservation projects in developing countries.
U.S. Ambassador Brian Nichols announced with the Minister of Culture, Diana Alvarez-Calderón, that the grant was won this year by the Nazca Management Project, which includes the demarcation and conservation of the drawings as well as implementing an awareness campaign and creating a joint team with the local authorities of the different towns and districts.
Just this week, an initial report of a clandestine airstrip carved into the desert near the Nazca Lines was quickly corrected by the Ministry of Culture.
The Maria Reiche Association reported on Facebook that one of its readers had taken an aerial photo of the airstrip, near the Ingenio valley between Nazca and Palpa.
However, according to the Ministry of Culture, “The landing strip — like several others that exist in Nazca and Palpa — was built in the 1950s and 1960s by farmers in the area who used small aircraft to fumigate their crops. After the Agrarian Reform, these strips fell into disuse and remained as part of the landscape. Consequently, these are not recent.
“Specialists from the Ministry of Culture have verified that the airstrip is located in a wide dry canyon which is cut through by numerous ancient water courses, and not on the desert surface that the ancient Paracas and Nazca people used to draw their geoglyphs,” the statement said.
Unfortunately, another report last week, also by Ana Maria Cogorno, the president of the Maria Reiche association, was confirmed to be true.
Tourists on a flight over the lines further north near Palpa, on the Pampas de San Jose, discovered words etched into the earth, next to a pelican figure, that read “Dibujador: Luis Tadeo.”
According to the Ministry of Culture representative in Nazca, Johny Isla, a complaint was filed six years ago against Tadeo, for making drawings on hillsides closer to the Nazca Lines. Legal action is also being taken this time.
A New Boost for Protection
The vast expanse of desert is difficult to monitor, but the new management project has already formed a new team of archaeologists for the area, Isla said, not only to supervise activities but to create awareness of the historic value of the drawings among the residents of the towns and villages scattered across these wide plains.
Over the past year alone, the Nazca Lines —which continue to be studied — have come under threat from Greenpeace activists, “rogue” tourists, even Dakar Rally vehicles. Over longer periods, the plains have suffered land invasions, illegal mining, and small construction companies invading the area to take away sand. Awareness campaigns and stronger joint efforts by local authorities throughout the province can remedy many of these threats.