A portion of the Nazca Lines, massive ancient geoglyphs in southern Peru, were torn up by heavy machinery, reports El Comercio (Spanish).
The Nazca Lines, which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, are large figures etched into the desert between 400 and 650 AD.
The company that is accused of the damage, which operates a limestone quarry and upgraded their operation a few months ago to produce construction material, says their land is privately owned and they are free to operate on it as they wish. A researcher is pushing back:
"The limestone firm responsible has not been sanctioned or supervised by the authorities of the Regional Directorate of Culture of Ica, despite being in this great archaeological reserve," said Eduardo Herrán Gómez de la Torre, director of research at Ojos de Condor, according to reporting by Peru This Week.
The extent of the damage is unclear. The incident occurred at kilometer 444 of the Panamericana Sur.
The geoglyphs are located in the Nazca Desert. There are about 300 figures stretched out over 400 square miles of desert. The dry and windless desert has kept the figures largely intact. Figures can be as big as 200 metres.
The Nazca Lines are fragile since they were formed by trenches only 10 to 30 cm deep. The lines may eventually succumb to population pressure and changing weather patterns.