LIMA, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Officials in Peru say a Greenpeace stunt caused damage to Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a series of ancient geoglyphs, that will last thousands of years.
Earlier this week, Greenpeace activists trespassed onto the ancient site to lay down a series of bright yellow letters, spelling out the message: "Time for Change! The Future is Renewable." The words were placed just below the beak of an ancient hummingbird symbol, carved into the earth more than 1,500 years ago.
The activists were hoping the message would encourage environmentalists to ramp up the pressure on politicians at the U.N. climate talks held in Lima this week. Instead, they instigated a public relations mess -- and potentially a legal one, too.
On Thursday, the organization issued an apology, but Peruvian officials say they are preparing to file criminal charges regardless.
"It's a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,'' Luis Jaime Castillo, Deputy Culture Minister, told reporters on Thursday.
The ancient site features some 70 zoomorphic designs, carved into a swath high desert plateau stretching more than 50 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa. In addition to the hummingbird, there are depictions of fish, llamas, jaguars, monkeys and humans.
"We have now met with the Peruvian Culture Ministry responsible for the site to offer an apology," Greenpeace said in a statement. "We welcome any independent review of the consequences of our activity. We will cooperate fully with any investigation."
Government officials in Peru are currently seeking the identities of involved activists. If convicted of trespassing on and damaging the sacred site, individuals could face up to six years in prison.