Giant 1,500-Year-Old Geoglyphs Threatened By Squatters

In Peru, the Nazca lines are at risk of disappearing as the housing crisis pushes people onto protected land.

Image
Reuters

Nazca lines, the massive 1,500-year-old drawings of animals and shapes scratched into the ground near the southern coast of Peru, have some new neighbors.

Squatters have been moving into the protected area, building at least 50 shacks on the land. The move has preservationists worried about the potential destruction of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Already, an ancient cemetery has been destroyed, according to an official at the culture ministry.

A severe housing shortage in Peru is the likely cause behind this encroachment, according to this article from Reuters:

Squatters, the latest in a succession of encroachments over the years into the protected Nazca area, invaded the site during the Easter holidays in April and that Peruvian laws designed to protect the poor and landless have thwarted efforts to remove them.

In Peru, squatters who occupy land for more than a day have the right to a judicial process before eviction, which [director of Peru's culture ministry Blanca] Alva, said can take two to three years.

"The problem is that by then, the site will be destroyed," she said.

The squatters say they are just poor people from an overcrowded town nearby looking for a place to live and not trying to destroy anything. But for officials in Peru, they're too close to these valuable and active archaeological sites, the origins and meanings of which are still unclear.

There are between 120 and 180 reports of people encroaching on archaeological sites in Peru every year. The cause is likely the shortage of nearly 2 million homes countrywide. This lack of available housing has helped push people, especially the poor, to these extreme locations. The culture ministry evicted another group of squatters near the geoglyphs back in January, and its likely that this current group won't be the last.

Top Image: One of the geoglyphs known as the Nazca lines in Peru. Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.