Updated 11:43 AM EST, Sat, Dec 15, 2018

Peru to Use NASA’s Radar Imagery to Help Preserve Nazca Lines

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NASA will provide radar imagery to Peru to help protect the famed Nazca Lines, one of the world's most mysterious archaeological sites.

The lines etched on the area are giant drawings, also known as geoglyphs, which show images of animals, plants, and mythical creatures, according to Fusion. The drawings are spread out over dozens of miles of desert located in southern Peru, and are believed to have been carved into the ground starting in 700 B.C. These etchings can only be completely viewed from an airplane.

NASA's local partner announced that it will now share data with the Peruvian government to spot potential threats to the Nazca Lines, including information on areas that have encountered majority of the human activities. In 2013 and 2015, an unmanned NASA aircraft equipped with the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, apparatus flew over the ancient archaeological site and took hundreds of photographs.

Under an agreement with U.S.-based Cultural Site Research and Management, Peru's Culture Ministry will be granted no-cost access to information acquired by NASA's UAVSAR, La Prensa reported.

"Thanks to these images we now have an X-ray of the Nazca plains that will help us to develop a conservation plan," Juan Pablo Puente, Peru's vice minister of culture, said in a statement quoted by Fusion. He noted that the images from NASA could also assist archaeologists in discovering new geoglyphs.

What captured officials the most is the precision of the drawings, which include a monkey, a hummingbird, and a spider, Fusion listed. This is considered strange, given that the people who made them had no resources to observe the lines from above.

Archeologists have long debated whether the lines functioned as an observatory, a religious spot, or an irrigation system, the news outlet further reported.

Peruvian officials said that damage to the ancient site has swelled in recent years, Fusion wrote. Archaeologists said that majority of the threats are illegal mining projects and tourists who walk on the fragile lines.

In 2014, Greenpeace activists entered the site illegally and damaged it when they staged a publicity stunt by putting a huge sign near the hummingbird image, Fusion reported. The incident has sparked outrage in Peru, and the group was forced to go to court to pay a fine.

Last week, Peruvian newspaper El Comercio published a NASA radar image of the hummingbird, which seemed to show black spots near its beak. El Comercio quoted a NASA scientist saying that the black spots are proof that stones and rocks have been taken out from the area and were signs of "irreparable" damage.

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