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Nazca Line Human Figure

Nazca Line Human Figure

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Ancient Humanoid-Shaped Nazca Line Discovered in Peruvian Desert

The newfound Nazca Line was found with artificial intelligence.

A sprawling humanoid-shaped character etched into the Peruvian desert has just been discovered by a team of scientists using artificial intelligence. The geoglyph is one of hundreds of diverse shapes carved into a swath of Peru and called the Nazca Lines.

The newly found Nazca Line is about 13.1 feet (4 meters) long and 6.6 feet (2 m) wide. It appears to depict a human-like individual with a rectangular head who is holding a stick and wearing a headdress, said scientists from Yamagata University and IBM who discovered the etching.

"It is very difficult to recognize the purpose of this formation and the societal role of the humanoid," said one of the researchers Masato Sakai, a professor of archaeology at Yamagata University in Japan.

The Nazca Lines, which are best seen from the air, cover an estimated 170 square miles (450 square kilometers) of Peru. Though their purpose is unknown, the lines appear to date between roughly 200 B.C. and A.D. 500, scientists have found. They depict a variety of motifs, including plants, animals and geometric shapes. A few, like the newly discovered Nazca Line, are in the shape of humans.

Nazca Lines – Description

The Nasca Lines are located in the Pampa region of Peru. The desolate plain of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, which is 400 Km. South of Lima, covers an area of approximately 450 square km, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes.

The Lines were first spotted when commercial airlines began flying across the Peruvian desert in the 1920’s. Passengers reported seeing ‘primitive landing strips’ on the ground below. No one knew who had built them or indeed why. Since their discovery, the Nasca Lineshave inspired fantastic explanations.

The Nazca plain is virtually unique for its ability to preserve the markings upon it, due to the combination of the climate (one of the driest on Earth, with only twenty minutes of rainfall per year) and the flat, stony ground which minimises the effect of the wind at ground level. With no dust or sand to cover the plain, and little rain or wind to erode it, lines drawn here tend to stay drawn. These factors, combined with the existence of a lighter-coloured subsoil beneath the desert crust, provide a vast writing pad that is ideally suited to the artist who wants to leave his mark for eternity.

The pebbles which cover the surface of the desert contain ferrous oxide. The exposure of centuries has given them a dark patina. When the gravel is removed, they contrast with the color underneath. In this way the lines were drawn as furrows of a lighter color, even though in some cases they became prints. In other cases, the stones defining the lines and drawings form small lateral humps of different sizes. Some drawings, especially the early ones, were made by removing the stones and gravel from their contours and in this way the figures stood out in high relief.

The concentration and juxtaposition of the lines and drawings leave no doubt that they required intensive long-term labor as is demonstrated by the stylistic continuity of the designs, which clearly correspond to the different stages of cultural changes.

There appear to be two kinds of designs: the first are figures of various beings and things and the others form geometric lines. The former consists of figures of animals, plants, objects, such as anthropomorphic figures of colossal proportions made with well-defined lines. Of these figures which have been restored by Maria Reiche and other collaborators about 70 are known.

There are also drawings of flowers and plants, as well as representations of deformed animals and other strange figures. An example of this is the drawing of a weird being with two enormous hands, one normal and the other with only four fingers. Also represented are drawings of man-made objects such as yarn, looms and “tupus” (ornamental clasps). All these figures have well-defined entrances which could be used as paths or to allow people to line together along the conformations of the drawings.

The anthropomorphic figures are relatively few and are situated on the slopes. The most well-known being The Astronaut at 32m length and E.T., discovered by Eduardo Herran in 1982. Others are The Man with a Hat and The Executioner and they also appear to be the most primitive. These figures are very similar to the small petroglyphs found in the rocky areas of the region.

In terms of the lines, many kilometers long, they crisscross sectors of the pampas in all directions. Many of the lines form geometric figures: angles, triangles, bunches, spirals, rectangles, wavy lines, etc. Other lines form concentric circles converging with or emanating from a promontory. Other prints have formed “roads” like geometric planes and appear to have been occupied by large groups of the population. Many of the lines are random and seem to have no pattern to them. They are seen over the scattered seemingly at random over the desolate plain, crossing and intersecting for no apparent reason.

Photo Copyright by Gilbert de Jong.

Explore Nazca Lines with Google Earth

If you have Google Earth installed, use this Nazca Google Earth Placemark file (Save and Open) and it will fly you to a location*. If not, you will need to install Google Earth first (available at http://earth.google.com ).
Google Earth streams the world over wired and wireless networks enabling users to virtually go anywhere on the planet and see places in photographic detail. This is not like any map you have ever seen. This is a 3D model of the real world, based on real satellite images combined with maps, guides to restaurants, hotels, entertainment, businesses and more. You can zoom from space to street level instantly and then pan or jump from place to place, city to city, even country to country.
These large (hundreds of meters) “landing strips” seem to be much older than glyphs (based on signs of erosion). There is no acceptable explanation so far… Click on images below to see full screen photos.

140 New Nazca Lines Discovered Including Strange Humanoid Figures

The Nazca lines are some of the most mysterious human drawings on Earth, and over 140 new ones of various sizes have recently been found, using the help of artificial intelligence.

Peru is a country rich with mysterious, ancient symbols and artifacts, treasures of a once-glorious civilization that sill linger in its many caves, mountains and deserts. Its secrets have fascinated archaeologists and scientists for centuries, since the days when the country could be accessed only by ship or train. Researchers have continually sought out the many intriguing aspects of Peruvian culture, and modern science has enabled them to learn a great deal about how life was lived in days gone by in this South American nation.

Now, thanks to modern technology, scientists are learning more than they dreamed possible, because artificial intelligence (A.I.) is making Peru’s ancient civilization even more accessible.

Nazca lines. One of the shapes purported to be a hummingbird.

Nazca line figure purported to be a spider.

Approximately 100 years ago, scientists found an area of about 200 square miles in Peru’s southern desert filled with huge intricate carvings of animals and birds. These drawings, called geoglyphs, are known as the Nazca Lines, due to their geometric shapes and for the people who drew them, who were part of the Nazca culture. The drawings are carved into a plain on the desert’s coast, and were drawn, experts say, between 200 BC and 500 AD.

Image of the Nazca “parrot”.

Although the etchings have been thoroughly viewed using satellite technology, a team of Japanese researchers from Yamagata University theorized that they could learn even more with the help of A.I. They got together with “Watson,” which is the name given to an A.I. system developed by IBM. After inputing all the data relevant to the glyphs, they asked Watson to detect whether there were other drawings the team had missed during its previous research.

Sure enough, Watson confirmed that over 140 new drawings exist in the desert region.

New drawing found. Two-headed snake geoglyph, approx. 30 meters long. (Yamagata University)

Team leader Masato Sakai said in a recent media statement, “It is in an area that we often investigated, but we did not know the geoglyphs existed.” He cited one new drawing in particular that appears to have a human shape but is very large — about 13 feet tall and six-and-a-half feet wide. All the etchings are very simple in shape, though not in scale. Each one looks as though it might have been drawn by a child, the lines are so plain and elementary.

New Bird geoglyph, approx. 100 meters long. (Yamagata University)

The oldest carvings the team found (100 BCE to 100 CE) are usually less than 50 meters (165 feet) in length, while the slightly later (100 CE to 300 CE) drawings span more than 50 meters, with the largest geoglyph measuring over 100 meters (330 feet).

Other shapes Watson discerned were of plants and mammals including a two-headed snake, birds, and other humanoid figures.

Another new humanoid geoglyph discovered, approx. 4 meters long. (Yamagata University)

That the A.I. technology was able to assist archaeologists in their hunt for clues to Peru’s ancient civilization is intriguing, but Sakai said that the scientific discoveries are not, in and of themselves, the relevant issue. He believes that these latest drawings will go a long way toward ensuring the drawings — all of them — are recognized as important cultural symbols.

“The most important thing is not the discovery itself,” Sakai insisted, “…they should be cleaned up. If they become clearly visible, they will be protected as important cultural heritages.”

The glyphs, like so many other ancient relics in countries around the world, are in jeopardy from human encroachment. Where once few people traversed the deserts in Peru, now roads and highways crisscross them and put the vast drawings at risk of complete erasure.

In one case, a truck veered off the road and wound up leaving tire tracks on one of the etchings, marring it permanently. Farmers raising pigs illegally have done plenty of damage to the drawings as well. And of course, unpredictable weather has had an effect in 2009, a huge downpour distorted part of a hand-shaped drawing.

Questions persist about the origins of the Nazca Lines, and archaeologists and historians remain unsure of the purpose — if any — they served. Some experts say they were used in fertility rites others argue they had an astrological purpose.

Whatever the truth, the symbols are a vital part of Peru’s ancient culture, and deserve preservation and protection. Their existence offers testimony to the people who once roamed Peruvian deserts, and learning the country’s history offers knowledge about the culture that exists there today.

The Mysterious Nazca Lines

Located in the deserts of Peru, on a plain stretched between the Inca Valley and the Nazca Valley, the mysterious Nazca Lines have been a source of mystery and intrigue since their discovery in 1927.

The lines were created by the ancient Nazca people, whose civilization flourished from about 200 BC until their society mysteriously collapsed around 650 AD. Both the Nazca Lines, as well as the reason for the once great civilization who created them suddenly collapsing has been the subject of study, intense debated and speculation for many years.

Originally discovered by Peruvian archaeologists Toribis Majia Xesspe in 1927, they weren&rsquot actually studied until Paul Kosok rediscovered them in 1937. He was in the area studying ancient irrigation systems, when he flew over them and realized one was a bird. He and another colleague. Began studying them right away, and what they found was amazing.

The Nazca Lines are in an area 37 miles long, and 15 miles wide. There are two main forms, biomorphs and geoglyphs. The biomorphs are figures of animals and plants. There are over 70, all grouped together. They are very large, with the largest being over 660 feet across. The biomorphs include images of spiders, birds, monkeys, llamas, trees, flowers and human figures. The geoglyphs are a series of geometric forms, including straight lines, triangles, spirals, circles and trapezoids. The longest is a straight line nine miles long.

Archaeologists believe they were made by brushing away the reddish iron oxide covered rocks and pebbles that cover the Peruvian desert. This allowed the white sand underneath to show through. Because the Nazca area is very dry, windless, and isolated, it has allowed the lines to exist for over 2000 years.

The mystery surrounding their construction is how the ancient Nazca people were able to create huge structures the could only be fully appreciated from the air, during a time when manned flight wasn&rsquot known to exist. Some archaeologist believe surveying techniques were used to create the huge pictures, while others believe they couldn&rsquot have been made without some type of manned flight. Jim Woodman, from the International Explorers Society, goes as far as suggesting the Nazca people created a prehistoric hot air balloon to both construct and appreciate the Lines.

The mystery of the Lines goes far beyond the creation. The meaning has fueled debate among scientists for years. The theories proposed has even become part of the Nazca Line&rsquos fame.

Some theories are simple. The most widely believe meaning is that the Lines had religious purpose. They could have been designed as offerings to their gods, who would have been able to see them from the heavens. Other scientist add to this by saying they were used as sacred pathways the ancient Nazca people used during their religious rituals.

Then there are the people who believe they are remains of ancient airfields, used by a technologically advanced civilization. The biomorph of a human figure, which some believe is actually a drawing of an ancient astronaut is often sited as evidence for this theory. There are many people who believe this vanished civilization could have been mistaken as the ancient Nazca people&rsquos gods.

There are no shortage of theories on why and how the Nazca Lines were built. The questions usually revolve around their enormous size. Is it possible these ancient people had tools and surveying techniques sophisticated enough to create such complex figures that span such large distances? Or is it possible the ancient Nazca people were visited by an advanced society over 2000 years ago? If so, did they contribute to the sudden collapse of this great civilization?

2,000-Year-Old Nazca Line Featuring Lounging Cat Found in Peru

Archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old etching of a cat carved into a hillside some 250 miles southeast of Lima, Peru, reports Spanish news agency EFE. The feline, which measures about 120 feet long, has wide, orb-like eyes and appears to be sunning itself.

Related Content

The newly identified likeness is a Nazca Line—one of hundreds of ancient drawings created in the Peruvian desert by removing rock and soil to produce a “negative” image in the sand, writes Jason Golomb for National Geographic. Other Nazca Lines depict animals including orcas, monkeys, hummingbirds and spiders, as well as geometric shapes and humanoid figures.

Dated to between 200 and 100 B.C., the geoglyph is thought to be older than any others previously discovered in the region. Workers identified the etching while remodeling a portion of the Nazca Lines Unesco World Heritage Site, reports Tiffany May for the New York Times.

“The discovery shows, once again, the rich and varied cultural legacy of this site,” says Peru’s Ministry of Culture in a statement.

Per the statement, the image of the lounging cat was “barely visible” prior to cleaning and conservation. As the Times notes, researchers only found it after spotting signs of “something intriguing” near the Mirador Natural lookout point.

“[It] was about to disappear because it’s situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion,” the ministry explains.

A spider-shaped Nazca Line (Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Famed for their impressive scale and complexity, the Nazca Lines have fascinated researchers since their modern rediscovery in the 20th century. But experts remain divided over why the Nazca civilization, which flourished in southern Peru between 200 B.C. and 600 A.D., dedicated so much time and energy to creating the massive figures.

Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe was the first to systematically study the lines, examining them from the ground in 1926. The following decade, commercial pilots provided a fuller aerial view of the glyphs between the 1940s and 󈨊s, Nazca experts Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche argued that the lines fulfilled “astronomical and calendrical purposes,” per National Geographic.

More recent investigations have shifted away from Kosok and Reiche’s theories, instead positing that the lines relate to religious rituals designed to encourage rainfall and fertility. Increasingly, wrote Stephen S. Hall for National Geographic in 2010, researchers are starting to agree that “[t]hey were not made at one time, in one place, for one purpose.”

Last year, archaeologists from Japan’s Yamagata University drew on satellite imagery, fieldwork and artificial intelligence analysis to identify 143 new Nazca Lines. According to a statement, the findings suggested that larger glyphs served as ritual sites, while smaller ones acted as location markers for travelers.

“It’s quite striking that we’re still finding new figures, but we also know that there are more to be found,” Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca Lines, tells EFE.

The Peruvian desert’s arid climate has preserved the Nazca Lines for millennia. But erosion and human activity pose significant threats to the glyphs’ survival. A single footprint or tire mark could permanently destroy the surface of these ancient lines—and, in recent years, such damage has become increasingly common. In 2014, Greenpeace activists smudged the surface of a Nazca Line during a demonstration calling for action on climate change, and in 2018, a truck driver was arrested after he intentionally drove a tractor across a condor-shaped glyph.

Researchers reveal 143 new Nazca Lines of strange humanoid beings and a two-headed ‘snake’

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A team of researchers from Yamagata University, along with IBM researchers, has found 143 new Nazca Lines in Peru with the help of A.I. technology. One small geoglyph of a ‘humanoid’ was found using A.I technology alone for the first time. Among these never-before-seen formations are some strange and fascinating images. Some larger ones can only be spotted from the sky.

Masato Sakai, a cultural anthropologist at Yamagata University, and his team worked with the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in the U.S. They were able to train the A.I. to scan satellite imagery of the plateau for possible geoglyphs. Then the team traveled to the locations to confirm the discoveries.

The formations may date back 2,000 years and show what appear to be humanoid and animal representations. They range in size from five to 100 meters in length.

Ancient astronaut theorists will have a field day with some of the geoglyphs, which seem to show unknown objects, two-headed ‘snakes’ that could be interpreted as wormholes in space, and light-emitting beings in what could be astronaut suits and helmets. One humanoid has oversized eyes and a strangely-shaped head with connected wormhole-like paths.

A Feathered Serpent?

A geoglyph of a snake with a head on both ends instantly brings depictions of the Feathered Serpent or Quetzalcóatl to mind. The Feathered Serpent is one of the major deities of the ancient Mexican pantheon, so it’s interesting to find such a similar depiction in Peru.

The first depictions of the Feathered Serpent go back to the Olmec stone carving La Venta Monument 19, dating back to between 1200 and 400 B.C. Around 900 A.D. The Toltec civilization worshipped Quetzalcoatl, and the practice is known to have spread as far south as the Yucatan peninsula.

Monument 19, from La Venta, the earliest known representation of a feathered serpent in Mesoamerica. Courtesy George & Audrey Delange via Wikimedia Commons

Now we can see that both in Peru and in Mesoamerica, a serpent is seen apparently eating people. However, in other cases, people are seen emerging from the ‘serpent’ as well, something seen in ancient cultures across the globe.

Quetzalcoatl in feathered-serpent form as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis via Wikimedia Commons New Nazca Line featuring a ‘snake’ with two heads via YouTube Vision Serpent depicted on lintel 15 from Yaxchilan, Photo by Michel Wal via Wikimedia Commons

A couple of geoglyphs appear similar to dinosaurs at first glance. Another has a bizarre figure connected to two animals by a tether. One humanoid with radiating lines stands next to an orb-shaped object. Inside the orb, we see what could be a face. (see below)

New geoglyph of a humanoid with a mysterious object via YouTube

New Nazca Lines

It’s always interesting to see what archaeologists determine that these geoglyphs represent. Take a look at some of the new Nazca Lines below, followed by a video from Ancient Architects.

See more from Ancient Architects:

More recent discoveries

Recently, state of the art technology has helped researchers find new clues about the possible reasons for the Nazca Lines. At the ends of some trapezoidal runway-like structures, researchers found mounds of rocks covering altar-like stone slabs. Around the ‘altars’ are walls embedded with the remains of sea creatures: crayfish claws, crab skeletons, and fragments of mollusk shells.

One theory is that oyster shells were a symbolic offering to the gods to bring rain to the arid desert area, 4,000 feet above sea level.

There are also shards of smashed pottery found at many geoglyphs. The pottery was smashed on purpose as part of a ritual, another offering to the gods to bring rain perhaps.

See more about these finds from Discovery U.K.:

In 2018, Peruvian archaeologist in the Palpa province of Peru found 50 new geoglyphs and corrected mistaken identities of some bird formations. Thanks to the new technology, we will almost certainly see many more exciting finds in the future, with multiple sites yet to be studied.

Advances are happening so fast that objects as small as pre-historic footprints are now being uncovered using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) in New Mexico. Who knows what discoveries will come as we follow the footprints of our ancient ancestors?

See more from IBM Research:

Agriculture and Diet

Nazca subsistence was based largely on agriculture. Iconography on ceramics and excavated remains indicate that the Nazca people had a varied diet, including:

  • Maize
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans
  • Manioc (also known as Yuca)
  • Achira
  • Small amounts of fish
  • Peanuts

They also grew several non-food crops, such as cotton for textiles, coca, San Pedro cactus, and gourds. The latter were decorated to illustrate activities in daily life. The presence of coca is evident in pottery and artwork. The leaves of this plant were chewed and worked as a stimulant that suppressed hunger, pain, thirst, and fatigue. The hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus also appears on several polychrome pots and bowls showcasing its ceremonial significance.

In terms of animal resources, the Nazca made sacrifices of llamas and guinea pigs at Cahuachi. Llamas were also commonly exploited as pack animals, for their wool, and as a source of meat.

San Pedro cactus. This plant, Echinopsis pachanoi, has hallucinogenic properties, which shamans of the Nazca culture utilized in ceremonies.

Nazca: Decoding The Riddle Of The Lines

The lines of Nazca, as well as the animal and plant geoglyphs associated with them, are amongst the most mysterious ancient works of pre-Colombian Peru, and in fact the world. Far less famous perhaps than the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, or Stonehenge in England, they do fit into the same class as these enigmas, as none of them have been completely decoded.

Ranked probably third in terms of popular ancient places to visit in Peru, with Machu Pic&rsquochu clearly being number one and the Lake Titicaca area number two, Nazca receives hundreds of thousands of tourists per year. Those with the stomach for it fly over the vast Nazca plain in order to observe the mysterious etchings from the air. And others, somewhat apprehensive of climbing into a small plane in a foreign country tend to be satisfied with viewing a couple of the geoglyphs and some of the lines from a tower on the side of the highway.

The Nazca Lines are located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru, relatively close to the Pacific Ocean. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid Nazca plateau stretches more than 80 kilometers (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima, the capital of Peru.

Nazca is one of the driest places in the world with average annual precipitation up to a meager 25 millimeters (about 1 inch.) Its weather is controlled by the Humboldt Current which carries water from Antarctica up the west coast of South America. This cold ocean water cools the marine air and limits the accumulation of moisture within clouds, and as a result though clouds and fog are able to form there is little rain and the region is exceptionally arid.

The Nazca culture (also Nasca) is thought by many archaeologists to have been the civilization which flourished from approximately 100 BC to about 600 AD in the river valleys of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage and the Ica Valley. Having been heavily influenced by the preceding Paracas culture, which was known for extremely complex textiles, the Nazca produced an array of beautiful crafts and technologies such as ceramics, textiles, and perhaps the famous geoglyphs which bear their name.

However, a major theory that my book puts forward is not only questioning the time frame of the Nazca culture, but also their achievements. The key expert on this subject is Sr. Juan Navarro, director of the Paracas History Museum, in the small town of Chaco, located next to the Paracas National Reserve. Though not a credentialed academic, Sr. Juan grew up in the area, and has spent many decades studying the pre-Colombian cultures that lived there. These cultures spanned more than 2000 years, and included, in chronological order the Paracas, Nazca, Wari (Huari), Chincha and Inca.

It is unclear when the first people inhabited the Nazca area. In terms of actual organized cultures, it has been populated by sedentary groups at least since the Formative Period (Initial Period, 1800-800 BC, and the Paracas culture, 800 BC to perhaps 100 AD). In the Early Intermediate Period (200 BC to 600 AD), the region flourished under the Nazca Culture. At the end of the Nazca Period extreme desertification led to a cultural decline. It was not until the Late Intermediate Period (1000 to 1450 AD), in a phase of increasing pluviality (increased rainfall), that the regional population increased again. The groups that moved in were the Wari (Huari) from the highlands to the east, then the Chincha from coastal Peru to the north, and finally the Inca. The great mystery of the Nazca area is of course, who made the lines and geoglyph animal and plant formations, and when? The Inca were not known for such enterprises, nor were the preceding cultures of Chincha or Wari people. Thus, it must have been the Nazca, or someone even earlier.

Before we approach the subject of when they were made, let&rsquos see why the Nazca died out as a civilization. Archaeologists examining the remains of the Nazca have uncovered a sequence of human induced events which led to their catastrophic collapse around 500 AD. Experts have struggled to explain why a society which clearly prospered during the first half of the first Millennium AD then collapsed into a bloody resource war and eventually vanished.

Some have argued that a &ldquomega El Nino,&rdquo which hit the region at around that time, and could have lasted many years may have been the cause. The El Nino/La Nina Southern Oscillation is a band of anomalously warm ocean water temperatures that occasionally develops off the western coast of South America, especially Peru and Ecuador and can cause climatic changes across the Pacific Ocean. Writing in the journal Latin American Antiquity , however, a team of researchers led by Dr. David Beresford-Jones from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University, suggest that the Nazca inadvertently wrought their own demise. Using plant remains gathered in the lower Ica Valley, the team found evidence that over the course of many generations, the Nazca cleared areas of forest to make way for their own agriculture. Studies of pollen samples taken by co-researcher Alex Chepstow-Lusty, of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima, showed that the huarango tree, which once covered what is now a desert area, was gradually replaced by crops such as cotton and maize. In the absence of huarango cover, whose roots fix nitrogen, when El Nino did strike, the river down cut into its floodplain, Nazca irrigation systems were damaged and the area became unworkable for agriculture. Thus, the people either perished, or were forced to move.

Contrary to the popular belief that the lines and figures can only be seen with the aid of flight, they, or at least some are visible from atop the surrounding foothills. They were first discovered by the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe, who spotted them when hiking through the foothills in 1927. He later discussed them at a conference in Lima in 1939. Xesspe Mejia was one of the foremost disciples of Julio C. Tello, whom he accompanied in the scans and the archaeological excavations carried out across the country.

Paul Kosok, a historian from Long Island University in the United States is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines. In the country in 1940 to 41 to study ancient irrigation systems, he flew over the lines and realized that one was in the shape of a bird. Another chance helped him see how lines converged at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. He began to study how the lines might have been created, as well as to try to determine their purpose. He was joined by Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist to help figure out the purpose of the Nazca Lines.

Determining how they were made has been easier than figuring why they were made. Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Archaeological surveys have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon dated and was the basis for establishing the age of the design complex. However, dating one stake can hardly be hard enough evidence for dating all of the lines and figures.

Maria Reiche, who is most famous for studying the Nazca phenomenon and did so for more than 50 years had her own thoughts as regards How old the lines and figures were

&lsquoThe people who made the Nazca drawings lived in different valleys over a period of 3,000 years or more and left as a testament to their existence millions of layers in which are found fine gold and silver work, excellent pottery, and the finest cloth in the world. We do not know when they made the drawings. The immense quantity of drawings, each executed with utmost precision, must have taken at least half a generation to make. A Carbon 14 test made on a stick found at the end of a quadrangle in a heap of stones gives the year 550 AD, but I am sure that they are much older than that! We know that the drawing activity extended through the time of the Inca because there are several drawings which are typical to the Inca style, sometimes drawn over older smaller figures, which are still visible underneath. This way, the drawing activity very well could have been extended over 2,000 years or more.&rsquo

The fact that the majority of the Nazca Plain is as flat as a tabletop, making a straight line is not very complicated, and could have been done by very simple surveying techniques, using as little as three sticks. One stick would be places in the ground, vertically, and then another in front of it, in the desired direction. Then a third stick would be placed ahead of the first two, in direct line, much like a fence is often mapped out. The first stick could then be removed, and be put some distance in front of the third, and so on. If one wished to make sure that the line was maintaining its straightness, the first stick could remain in place until the job was ended, ensuring accuracy. Not exactly a pursuit requiring &ldquoalien intervention.&rdquo

The scholar Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky has reproduced the figures by using tools and technology available to the Nazca people. The National Geographic called his work "remarkable in its exactness" when compared to the actual lines. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of people could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance. Nickell states: &lsquoBy far the most work on the problem of Nazca engineering methods has been done by Maria Reiche. She explains that Nazca artists prepared preliminary drawings on small six foot square plots. These plots are still visible near many of the larger figures. The preliminary drawing was then broken down into its component parts for enlargement. Straight lines, she observed, could be made by stretching a rope between two stakes. Circles could easily be scribed by means of a rope anchored to a rock or stake, and more complex curves could be drawn by linking appropriate areas. As proof, she reports that there are indeed stones or holes at points that are centers for arcs.&rsquo

The work of Nickell shows that in theory the animal figures could have been made using a scale drawing or other related technique, and does debunk the idea that they could only have been achieved with the designer being in the air, such as in a primitive balloon, or &ldquoflying saucer.&rdquo When the surface iron oxide rich stones and gravel are removed the light colored whitish yellow clay earth which is exposed in the bottom of the trench produces lines which contrast sharply in color and tone with the surrounding land surface, thus creating contrast.

Even though Maria Reiche spent more than 50 years attempting to show direct relationships on the ground with some kind of cosmic reflection and relationships, as in relationships with star formations, computer modeling showed no direct correlation to specific constellations.

Anthony Aveni believed that the lines pointed to water sources. He suggested that the eight hundred miles (1,300 kilometers) worth of straight lines map the direction of water sources and the highly advanced irrigation system which the Nazca had produced. Two thirds of the lines seem to follow channels of the irrigation system.

By 1998, Phyllis B. Pitluga, a protege of Reiche and senior astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, had concluded that the animal figures were representations of heavenly shapes. But she contends that they are not shapes of constellations but of what might be called counter constellations, the irregular shaped dark patches within the twinkling expanse of the Milky Way. In 1985, the archaeologist Johan Reinhard published archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data demonstrating that worship of mountains and other water sources predominated in the Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. He theorized that the lines and figures were part of religious practices involving the worship of deities associated with the availability of water, which directly related to the success and productivity of crops.

According to the work of David Johnson, and described in his book Beneath The Nasca Lines and Other Coastal Geoglyphs of Peru and Chile the Nazca Lines consistently map the source and course of aquifers. Five components were consistently present at each location, as if part of an equation faults, aquifers, fresh water sources, geoglyphs and archaeological sites. Where one or more of these features are found there is a high probability the others are present. He realized the Nazca Lines are a text imprinted into the landscape providing the inhabitants of the region, both past and present, with the solution to their water problems.

Jim Woodmann believes that the Nazca lines could not have been made without some form of manned flight to see the figures properly. Based on his study of available technology, he suggests that a hot air balloon was the only possible means of flight. To test this hypothesis, Woodmann made a hot-air balloon using materials and techniques that he understood to be available to the Nazca people, such as native cotton. The balloon flew, after a fashion, for a short period of time, but not enough to seem a credible theory. Most scholars have rejected Woodmann’s thesis because of the lack of any evidence of such balloons.

One of the most famous, and some would say audacious ideas as to what the Nazca lines and figures mean, and how they were created is that of Erich von Daniken who suggests the Nazca lines and other complex constructions represent higher technological knowledge than commonly believed to be existing when the glyphs were created. Von Daniken maintains that the Nazca lines in Peru are runways of an ancient airfield that was used by extraterrestrials mistaken by the natives to be their gods. His theory has not been accepted by scholars.

Evan Hadingham proposed that the ancient Nazca priests used powerful hallucinogenic concoctions that made them adept at "out of body" experiences. He theorized that the priests, or shamans, were able to transform into spirits and fly above the land. To amuse them or possibly honor them, the giant line art was created. The predominant medicinal and hallucinogenic drug of this area in ancient times was procured from the San Pedro cactus.

Since the lines and geoglyphs can not be directly dated by any known methods, then were they necessarily all made by the same people, as in the Nazca? Henri Stierlin, a Swiss art historian specializing in Egypt and the Middle East, published a book in 1983 linking the Nazca Lines to the production of ancient textiles that archeologists have found wrapping mummies of the Paracas culture.

The major cemeteries of the Paracas were at Cerro Colorado, Cabeza Larga (which is Spanish for elongated head), Chongos and Camacho, which are all found in the vicinity of the Paracas Peninsula, about a 4 hour drive north west of Nazca. It is here too that the famous Candelabra can be found, a 500 foot tall trident shaped geoglyph which can only be observed from the ocean.

It appears to have been made using the same techniques as the Nazca figures and lines, and some researchers have stated that the three fork like projections of its &ldquotrident&rdquo design face Nazca to the southeast, but this is not the case. The Candelabra is in fact directed due south.

According to most sources, the Paracas had an extensive knowledge of irrigation and water management, and their territory extended from the area of Chincha in the north down to at least as far as Nazca. Evidence suggests that the Topara culture is thought to have invaded from the north at approximately 150 BC. The two cultures, Paracas and Topara presumably coexisted for one or more generations, both at the massive adobe complex of Cahuachi near Nazca city and in the nearby Ica Valley, and that their interaction played a key role in the development of the Nazca culture and ceramic and textile traditions.

Palpa is a small agricultural town located about 60 kilometers north of Nazca on the Pan Americana highway and is thus in between the Paracas peninsula and Nazca. More and more evidence is indicating that the numerous Palpa lines and figures found in the area were created by the Paracas culture, before the presumed existence of the Nazca lines and the Nazca culture.

The reason the geoglyphs of Palpa received less attention than those of Nazca may be because the geography of Palpa and Nazca are significantly different. The Palpa region is strewn with continuous abrupt peaks, quite different from the pampa of Nazca where sands and stone stretch out endlessly over a plain which affords a great deal of visibility. Figures drawn on the mountain side in the Palpa region are less visible, and even disappear depending upon the direction from which they are viewed. Karsten Lambers, who is a German archaeologist has been mapping and studying the geoglyphs of the Palpa area since 1999, and has so far found at least 1500 geoglyphs over an area of 89 square kilometers.

So far, we have seen that the area covered by geoglyphs in this area of Peru is immense. They begin with the Candelabra of Paracas, next to the Pacific Ocean, and extend, in a southeast fashion through Palpa to the Nazca area. The cultures involved in the whole process appear to be the Paracas, and then there is a progression into the Nazca via the Topara culture. In my opinion the Nazca lines and figures were not created solely by the Nazca people, and not entirely within the time span of about 1 AD to 500 AD. They are part of a much larger geographic fabric of land which begins at the Candelabra in Paracas, extends through Palpa, and ends up in the Nazca pampa. The Paracas would have been the first to create the shapes, especially the Candelabra and at Palpa, and over time the works progressed into Nazca. As incredible artisans of mysterious origin the Paracas may have simply been creating fanciful designs on hillsides, but why depictions of humans with extensions coming out their heads at Palpa is a matter of conjecture.

The Topara moved in and amalgamated with them, forming a new culture which became known as the Nazca. Again, I believe that this was not a peaceful alliance, but resulted in the overthrow of the Paracas and their lands. Evidence of this I suggest is the disappearance of the elongated skull cranial deformation phenomena which was a hall mark of the Paracas elite. Also, much of the Nazca art form can be directly attributed to the earlier Paracas, as the ceramic works of the pre-Nazca Topara was much cruder in form and embellishment.

Following along this thread of logic, the early Paracas line and geoglyph works may have been created as expressions of art and spirituality as well as perhaps for celestial observations, and then the later Nazca, with food resources dwindling from the decimation of the huarango trees and El Nino effects made the lines as a way to map the underground streams of the area. Major lines may have been made prior to this act of civil engineering as pathways to distant outposts as trade routes, and as well to map solar, lunar and stellar alignments.

And that could be why so many theories have arisen. No one hypothesis can adequately explain the entire Nazca geoglyph phenomenon, and thus the explanation probably comes from different constructions over the course of several centuries, by different people for varied reasons.

My book about Nazca, as well as 13 others is available through www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com. And my wife and I occasionally run tours in Peru, Bolivia, Egypt and Easter Island, focusing on the enigmatic sites that confound conventional academics via www.hiddenincatours.com.

The Nazca Lines

Most of the lines are simply straight lines that cuts across the landscape. But some form intricate figures of animals and plants. As we all know, these lines aren’t small sketches on the ground. Even simple lines could stretch for more than a kilometer, while geoglyphs (the term for vast Nazca Line figures) range from 0.4 to 1.1 kilometers. If one will combine the length of each lines, it will cover an area of 50 square kilometers. On the ground up close, the lines are less spectacular. In fact, they are barely visible, and a typical etched line is only 4 to six-inch-deep and one foot wide. Some could be six feet wide.

To make the line, one must make a shallow depression by removing the reddish-brown topsoil (the iron oxide coated pebbles) to reveal the yellow subsoil underneath. The isolation of the place and the windless climate preserved the lines well, but the presence of squatters deteriorate the lines as of 2012.

From simple straight lines and geometric shapes, 70 of these lines form figures of hummingbird, jaguars, human, lizard, dog, monkey, llama, flowers and trees. The lines were created between 500 BCE and 500 CE.

How were the Nazca Lines created?

Watch the World Heritage Site from above. Photo credit: shutterstock

Legends of aliens or prehistoric men aboard hot-air balloons have been wafting about for decades in relation to the Nazca Lines. For years it was thought that their creation was the result of highly-skilled people with, perhaps, supernatural powers. Yet a few years ago a geoglyph expert made an experiment and put those theories to rest once and for all. Anthony Aveni, a well-respected archaeoastronomer, proceeded to recreate a copy-cat Nazca Line with reputedly very little effort. Aveni and his team of 10 volunteers carved a perfectly straight line 35 metres in length and 1 metre in width, which wound to a beautiful spiral. It was as accurate and impressive as any of the bona fide Nazca Lines, proving that creating them would have merely required some forward planning and team-work to achieve. Impressive? Yes! Impossible? Seems not.

Of course, divine intervention is still a big hit with conspiracists but for experts, the only real mystery which persists is why they were made, not how.

The added bonus of a Nazca Lines viewing experience!

There’s no better way to view the Nazca Lines than from the teeny tiny chair of a light plane. If this sounds like a rather interesting activity, let us assure you it most certainly is. The scenic flight over the Nazca Lines is an absolute blast and one of the best adrenalin rushes you can have on a tour of Peru! The pilots take their show-off skills very seriously and are so intent on showing you the lines at the perfect angle (ie. straight on) that they manoeuvre their planes with impossible acrobatics which leave you squealing in delight on one hand, and wishing you hadn’t downed that last fried plantain for breakfast on the other. All the while you’re trying to hold a steady hand so you can photograph the lines.

Souvenir rocks from the Nazca Lines. Photo credit: shutterstock

So take it from someone with a ridiculous tale to tell and note that the Nazca Lines are best admired on an empty stomach. And leave your camera on the ground, so you can enjoy the ethereal experience simply through your own eyes.

You can always buy postcards or a souvenir rock later.

Come and discover more interesting stories about the Nazca Lines, why they may have been carved and the efforts being made to preserve them against threatening environmental changes. Want to add an awe-inspiring scenic flight over the Nazca Lines on your upcoming tour of Peru? Don’t wait longer and visit South America. Click here for more information about Chimu.

Author: Laura Pattara

“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”

Watch the video: What Is Hiding Under The World Famous Nazca Lines In Peru. Blowing Up History (July 2022).


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