The Peruvian Ministry of Culture is investigating 10 instances in which the Nazca Lines have been damaged either by mining operations or by looting, in parts of the vast desert four hours south of Lima where hundreds of the ancient geoglyphs have been discovered.

Several gold and copper processing plants have been shut down in the protected area, which covers some 170 square miles along the coast of central Peru and which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Lima-based Maria Reiche Association is the driving force behind the preservation of the Nazca Lines.

The association is named after the German mathematician and archaeologist who carried out extensive research into the lines beginning in 1940.

Over the years, archaeologists and historians have struggled to determine the purpose of the lines. Because of their scale, it would seem the geoglyphs were created to be viewed from the sky.

The Nazca figures were created by removing reddish pebbles that litter the desert and uncovering the grayish ground beneath. They range in complexity from simple lines and geometric shapes to elaborate designs depicting trees, flowers, birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, monkeys and humans. 

The largest figures are more than 660 feet across.

This is not the first time the enigmatic lines have been damaged. A major highway cuts through some of the figures, and in 2012 the Dakar Rally across South America caused reportedly irreversible damage.

Follow us on twitter.com/foxnewslatino
Like us at facebook.com/foxnewslatino