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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/29/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Looters and squatters threaten important archaeological sites

A culture is worth nothing if it doesn't preserve its past. To this end, the South American nation of Peru has now resorted to unmanned drones to protect its many archaeological sites. Home to the spectacular Inca city of Machu Picchu as well as thousands of ancient ruins, archaeologists are working around the clock to protect sites from squatters, builders and miners.

Home to the spectacular Inca city of Machu Picchu as well as thousands of ancient ruins, Peruvian archaeologists are working around the clock to protect sites from squatters, builders and miners.

Home to the spectacular Inca city of Machu Picchu as well as thousands of ancient ruins, Peruvian archaeologists are working around the clock to protect sites from squatters, builders and miners.

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/29/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Peru, archaeological sites, drones, squatters, looters


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The situation points to the fact that there's always a downturn to increased economic stability. While Peru's economy has grown at an average annual clip of 6.5 percent over the past decade, development pressures have since surpassed looting as the main threat to the country's cultural treasures.

The most obvious case in point was the destruction of a 5,000-year-old pyramid near Lima. The entire structure was razed last July by construction firms. At the same time, residents of a town near the pre-Incan ruins of Yanamarca reported that informal miners were damaging the three-story stone structures as they dug for quartz.

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Squatters and farmers have repeatedly tried to seize land near important sites like Chan Chan on the northern coast, considered the biggest adobe city in the world.

Archaeologists say that drones can help set boundaries to protect sites, watch over them and monitor threats. The unmanned aircraft also help create a digital repository of ruins that can help build awareness and aid in the reconstruction of any damage done.

It's a remarkable example of a military invention being re-purposed for civilian use. Remote-controlled aircraft were developed for military purposes and remain a controversial tool in U.S. anti-terrorism campaigns. The falling price for drones, however means its being increasingly used for civilian and commercial projects around the world.

Small drones have been helping a growing number of researchers produce three-dimensional models of Peruvian sites instead of the usual flat maps - and in days and weeks instead of months and years.

Speed is an important ally to archaeologists here. "We see them as a vital tool for conservation," Ana Maria Hoyle, an archaeologist with the Culture Ministry says.

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