A spectacularly ill-advised Greenpeace stunt did what authorities say is permanent damage to the ancient Nazca Lines, but archaeologists say the activists were just the latest in a long line of threats to Peru's heritage. Tomb raiders, developers, and illegal miners have destroyed or disturbed countless sites across the country, and in Nazca, the geoglyphs have been damaged by truck drivers taking shortcuts, government-sanctioned off-road racing, and squatters who have built homes right on top of the delicate lines etched into the desert around 1,000 years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Archaeologists say protection efforts don't receive anywhere near enough funding and accuse the government of having no interest in protecting the Nazca sites. The Greenpeace stunt has brought the lines a lot of attention, but in a "very unfortunate way," says Edward Ranney, a photographer who has been documenting ancient sites in the region since the 1960s. "A lot of people are really outraged, and rightly so. Any time anyone walks on the pampa, those footprints don't go away," he tells the Smithsonian. The lines "are there because it never rains there." Greenpeace has apologized for the stunt but refuses to name the activists involved. (Read more Nazca lines stories.)