Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Peru, the Nazca Lines and Greenpeace

Southern Peru’s cultural and historical legacy includes two items of particular interest, both of which I am privileged to have seen. It is hardly surprising that the first of these, the Nazca Lines, was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994. The plant and animal geoglyphs, including the famous hummingbird, can only be fully appreciated from the air. It will be for evermore debated how an ancient civilisation could have been so ingenious as to create something of such lasting wonder.

Not quite so well known, but just as intriguing, is “Mummy Juanita”, the remnants of a teenage girl now at rest in the Museo Santuarios de Altura in Arequipa, long after her ritual sacrifice on the top of the Ampato mountain 500 years ago. As legend would have it, this was all part of Incan tradition involving the duty to appease their gods. Juanita’s fate was a single blow to the head, in marked contrast to other sacrificial victims who were strangled or buried alive at the top of the peak.

So if we now fast forward to the present day, and read about the act of vandalism that Greenpeace activists inflicted upon the Nazca Lines in their quest for publicity alongside the Lima climate conference, we might ask exactly how much appeasement the Incan gods might be entitled to call for. One or two ideas spring to mind…

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