For Peru, Greenpeace Pulled an Unforgivable Stunt at Their 1,500 Year-old Nazca Lines Site


Imagen taken from Greenpeace Twitter account 

The Peruvian government has refused to accept an apology from Greenpeace for their recent protest stunt at the fragile grounds of the Nazca Lines archeological site.

On December 8, 20 Greenpeace activists from seven countries spread large yellow cloth letters near the 1,500 years hummingbird lines, relaying the message: “Time for change! The future is renewable Greenpeace!”. The heritage site is usually just seen from the sky, even ministers have to seek special permission to tread the grounds with special footwear. 

The international environmental organization wanted to capture the attention of delegates attending the COP20 conference on climate change, taking place in Lima. 

Pictures were uploaded on its official Twitter account showing the placing of the message: 

Greenpeace also displayed its intervention on Facebook, where despite having received more than 6,000 likes for its publication, several indignant Peruvians criticized the act. For example, lawyer Erick Iriarte made the following comment:  

Ninguna lucha x #ddhh puede violar #ddhh (y nuestros derechos culturales a nuestra historia, son derechos humanos). Luchar violando derechos termina siendo contraproducente. Todos luchamos x que lideres tomen decisiones, pero no tienen ningun derecho a violar mi historia, la historia de mi pueblo, de mis hijos, de mis padres, Y que ustedes crean que caminar sobre zona arqueologica no es dañarla, les informo que tambien la dañan y ciertamente que el kilometro que caminaron para llegar a zona dejaron sus huellas, removieron espacio, y alteraron el, precisamente que defienden, medioambiente.

The María Reiche Association, named after the German-born Peruvian archeologist who dedicated her life to investigating the Nazca Lines, made the following comment

The Nazca lines are in a restricted area one is not allowed to enter it, but for a reason. The Hummingbird figure is about 1km away from the nearest highway with some other 1000s of other lines criss crossing up to that area. Can you secure that no damage was done, cconsidering you arrived at the place when it was still dark? The Nazca desert has a few dozen figures but thousands of even more impressive lines.

Greenpeace offered this response

We can assure you that absolutely NO damage was done. The message was written in cloth letters that laid on the ground without touching the Nazca lines. It was assessed by an experienced archaeologist, ensuring not even a trace was left behind.

However, not everyone accepted Greenpeace's claim. 

Walking along the lines might seem harmless; however, one needs to know how these lines are made in order to understand the damage. Why are the Nazca Lines so fragile? Geologist, Patricio Valderrama, explains

La pampa de Nazca está compuesta por una finísima capa de material aluvial de origen granítico-volcánico de color rojizo (provenientes del Batolito de la Costa). Este nivel está sobre un nivel de arena gris clara, entonces, si “remueves” la capa superior, expondrás la capa inferior permanentemente, es este contraste de colores lo que permitió que los antiguos Nazca dibujaran sus lineas: haciendo surcos.

State representatives took action after hearing the news. 

Following an inspection by Ministry of Culture representatives, Greenpeace was reported to the prosecutor's office for damage to the archeological heritage.  The president of the Congress’ Culture Commission asked that the activists responsible be apprehended. In response, Greenpeace Climate and Energy campaign coordinator, Mauro Fernándezannounced that he would place himself at the disposal of the Ministry of Culture and the Peruvian justice system to “resolve any problems”. 

The organization apologized to those offended by the intervention. The Deputy Minister of Culture stated that their apologies have not been accepted

Hernán Hurtado of the Heritage Defense Collective, comments on the Qollur Archeology blog that, “Greenpeace should be known as a non grata institution.” He also emphasized on the problems facing the archeological site: 

Este reciente y lamentable atentado, sirva para tomar medidas más eficaces en salvaguarda de nuestro patrimonio arqueológico. En tal sentido exhortamos al Ministerio de Cultura a redoblar esfuerzos en la defensa, protección y vigilancia de las pampas de Nasca y Palpa que son víctima constante de invasiones, huaquería y minería ilegal.

A few weeks ago a group of land invaders took control of the Cerros Altos and Huaca La Calera II sectors, which also form part of the Nazca archeological zone. The Ministry of Culture because failed to take action, even though they used heavy machinery. Social networks remained rather quiet regarding that incident, to which some protested ironically on Twitter: 

Again, however, there is a lack of consensus amongst social networkers regarding this issue:

Beyond the debate, there is hope that the Peruvian authorities will proactively protect the archeological heritage and not just when  they come under media scrutiny.

Post originally published in Globalizado blog.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.