Nazca Lines archaeologist faces charges for TV tour

Nazca Lines archaeologist faces charges for TV tour

Peru’s Ministry of Culture plans to sack its resident archaeologist in Nazca and is pressing criminal charges against him for escorting a Japanese TV crew on an unauthorized ground tour of the iconic hummingbird geoglyph.

Greenpeace crosses the line and leaves footprint of controversy at Nasca heritage siteThe video  segment, shot a year ago, has landed Mario Olaechea in such hot water because a furor still roils in Peru over the Greenpeace activists who allegedly trampled the same heritage site last month during a stealth publicity stunt, meant to promote renewable energy.

Government officials are pressing forward with criminal charges against several of the Greenpeace activists, whom they suspect were also assisted by Olaechea.

Archaeologist Mario Olaechea leads Japanese TV crew on foot to the restricted landscape of the Nasca LinesOlaechea, the longtime provincial director of Culture in Nasca, denies any involvement in the Greenpeace stunt. He also insists that no damage was caused to the lines by the Fuji Television Network crew, which went on to produce an 1½ televised showcase of Peruvian tourist destinations in Japan.

In the video, Olaechea is seen assisting the Japanese reporter put on special protective footwear, unlike the Greenpeace activists, who sneaked onto the site during the night, wearing hiking boots and sneakers.

Special footware is necessary to avoid disturbing the fragile and restricted Nazca Lines zoneThe special foot pads are necessary to avoid disturbing the upper rocky layer of the desert plateau and exposing the lighter sand below. That’s the process that the Nazca civilization used some 2,500 years ago to etch enormous geoglyph figures of animals, birds and geometric patterns into the landscape.  An inadvertent footprint or body mark left in the ground can remain there for decades.

The TV reporter is shown plopping down to lay prone  in-between the lines of the hummingbird’s foot.

Culture Minister Diana Alvarez-Calderon said Wednesday that the Japanese film crew applied in January 2013 only for a filming permit from the air and were strictly forbidden from entering the protected zone on foot.

Olaechea has been suspended since last month, following the Greenpeace incident, pending an administrative review to fire him, she said.

“The Ministry of Culture’s legal counsel is at Nasca Lines and will file a criminal complaint against the archaeologist,” she added.

Reporter for a Japanese variety show laid on her back between the toes of  the iconic Nazca Hummingbird geoglyph

 Watch the Nazca segment that’s caused the uproar:

If you’re interested in an authorized tour to see the Nazca lines the government-sanctioned way, contact Fertur Peru Travel.

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Authored by: Rick Vecchio

Rick Vecchio, Fertur’s director of development and marketing, was educated at the New School for Social Research and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for Pacifica Radio WBAI and as a daily reporter for newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. Then in 1996, he decided it was time to realize a life-long dream of traveling to Peru. He never went back. While serving as Peru country manager for the South American Explorers from 1997-1999, he fell in love with Fertur's founder, Siduith Ferrer, and they married. Over the next six years, he worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Siduith built the business, which he joined in January 2007. Now he designs custom educational and adventure tour packages for corporate and institutional clients, oversees Fertur’s Internet platform and occasionally leads special trips, always with an eye open for a good story to write about.

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