Greenpeace activists are facing legal retribution from the government of Peru for trespassing on ancient Inca land and potentially damaging an aerial hummingbird monument believed to be between 1,500-2,000 years old.
The activists placed a sign reading “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable – Greenpeace” next to the hummingbird design that is part of a larger archaeological treasure known as the Nazca lines. As the BBC notes, the lines, a designated Unesco World Heritage Site, are extremely fragile due to their age and the material with which they were built.
Speaking to local radio, Peruvian Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo confirmed that the nation will file charges against Greenpeace for “attacking archaeological monuments.” While the hummingbird figure is still intact, Castillo noted that “now we have an additional figure created by the footsteps of these people” that takes away from the beauty of the original artwork. “And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognised of all,” he added. “It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred.”
The Guardian notes that Peru was chosen for this operation because it is currently hosting the UN’s global climate summit. The government of Peru is not especially at odds with environmentalism– Castillo went so far as to note that Peru has “nothing in particular against Greenpeace”– and Greenpeace has said the activists are pleading guilty to trespass, so as to avoid felony charges.
A spokesperson for the activist group added that the protesters were “absolutely careful to protect the Nazca lines.” The publication Peru This Week reports, however, that the damage may already be visible. Aerial photos taken after the stunt may already show signs of damage to the ancient site, further indicating that Greenpeace will have to face severe criminal punishment. The footprints of activists can be seen in the area around the sign, which is under the hummingbird’s beak.
It is not yet clear whether such a negotiation will allow the protesters to escape a stronger criminal charge given the delicate nature of the area in which they trespassed.