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29 February 2000
Peruvian Nazca Lines in danger

Last month, workers toiled to defend Peru's famed Nazca lines - the mysterious symbols that Indians etched into the ground in Peru's southern desert centuries ago - by digging ditches and unblocking drains to prevent mudslides that could damage the massive and mysterious drawings.
Two days of unusually heavy rains triggered mudslides that ripped across the Pan-American Highway, which borders on parts of the lines. One minor line was damaged about nine miles south of the most famous figures, which include a hummingbird, monkey, heron, whale, spider and flower.
"There has been no damage to the lines, but we are worried," said Jorge Ramos, an official at Peru's cultural institute. He hoped the work would direct any flood waters away from the figures.
The lines - among Peru's main tourist attractions - are on a desert plain about 10 miles north of the city of Nazca and 250 miles southeast of the capital, Lima. They were etched by the Nazca Indians between 300-600 AD.
The site has baffled archaeologists, who wonder how ancient cultures constructed such straight lines and precise figures visible only from the air without modern tools or airplanes. Scientists and popular writers debate their purpose, offering such theories as a calendar, a map of underground water supplies and landing strips for space aliens. UNESCO declared the drawings around the 200-square-mile area a world heritage site in 1995

Sources: Associated Press, NBC, Washington Post (1 Feburary, 2000)

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