The Mystery of Nazca Lines

Uma Shankari By Uma Shankari, 3rd Aug 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

Doodles on the desert floor

The Nazca Lines are a series of geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches 53 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa in Peru in western South America.

They were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BCE and CE 700. Huge geoglyphs exist also in Egypt, Malta, United States (Mississippi and California), Chile, Bolivia and in other countries. But the numbers, characteristics, dimensions and cultural continuity of Nazca geoglyphs make them the most impressive, as well as enigmatic, archaeological group.

If you were to take an aerial survey of the 400 square miles of southern Peru's desert coast like the first commercial trans-Andean aviators did in the 1930s when they spotted these giant earth paintings, you would see miles of long, straight lines crisscrossing the dry wasteland and hundreds of individual figures, drawn as simple lines, spirals, zigzags, triangles, and trapezoids to display highly stylized forms of hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fishes, sharks, llamas and lizards.

Peru is associated with the Inca Civilization.

How Were The Nazca Lines Drawn?

The temperature across the dry plateau stays a steady average of 77 degrees (25 degrees Celsius) year round. The desert has a light-colored surface covered with dark, iron-oxide covered pebbles. When the gravel is brushed away, the strong contrast between the exposed ground and the surrounding pebbles make the figures stand out in high relief.

The dry climate and the flat, stony ground minimize 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 on this vast drawing board.

Why were the Nazca Lines Drawn?

Since it is presumed the Nazca people could not have seen their work from a vantage high point, there has been much speculation on their abilities and motivations. The puzzling questions is how these people could keep a line perfectly straight for miles and the kind of simple surveying tools they would have developed to keep the lines on course.

Awed and baffled by the gigantic and enigmatic etchings, people have proposed every imaginable explanation — from runways or the equivalents of helipads for alien spaceships, tracks for Olympic athletes to astronomical observatories. The giant man drawing is said to represent an alien because it doesn't look human. Another surmise is that the aliens could have drawn those themselves, just like the elaborate crop circles they have been credited to be created by some.

Erich von Däniken proposed that long time ago visitors from other stars visited Nazca and other places. The powerful propulsion of the rocket by which they landed blew away stones and rocks in the area. In this way the first trapezes emerged. Later the Aliens disappeared and left confused people. Like in the modern cargo cults they tried to call the Gods back by drawing lines, figures and trapezes.

Nazca Lines are also speculated to be religious symbols. The geoglyphs were constructed as offerings to the gods in exchange for water in their overly dry land.

Another theory involves correlations with the sun, moon and stars. Other wonders of the world line up with specific constellations but in the case of the Nazca Lines - they don't.

The Johnson Theory: Map of underground water supplies?

For the people of the time, life in a desert would have been a constant search for water. A man named David Johnson based this theory on the ancient practice of dowsing to discover underground sources of water. This practice involves the use of two bent rods and walk around until the rods bend together or separate. By dowsing, it was possible to map out exactly where they would need to go in order to drink. The giant geoglyphs could then be thought of as names for each oasis. The tribe would walk from drawing to drawing and would thank a certain god for the water that they would receive. There are also many canals and underground waterways in the area which backs up this theory.

Let's hope more satisfactory theories to appear in the future explaining the weird anthropomorphic figures of beings situated on the slopes, like The Astronaut at 32m length discovered by Eduardo Herran in 1982.


Aliens, Dowsing, Geoglyphs, Inca Civilization, Nazca Astronaut, Nazca Culture, Nazca Lines, Nazca Lines Pictures, Nazca Lines Theories, Peru

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author avatar Uma Shankari
I write on society, relationships, travel, health, nutrition and fitness.
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author avatar Michael DeRentz
14th May 2013 (#)

Just flew over the Nazca lines last week. On reviewing photos I find that I can't identify the glyph next to the whale. Know what it is?

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