Peru’s Massive Geoglyphs
The Nazca lines are one of the greatest enigmas of ancient history, how could Miro and I pass up the chance of visiting? They are massive geoglyphs, formed in the terrain of Nazca and the pampas of Jumana in the south of Peru. Illustrations of animals, plants, and other creatures, as well as deliberate patterns of lines which resemble tracks, are marked in the earth. They are so large that their complete designs are only visible from an aerial view. How were these geoglyphs made? More importantly, why did the indigenous peoples of Nazca go to such great lengths to create these images? Were they made as a reflection of the patterns found in the stars, or perhaps a series of illustrations for the cosmos alone to view?
Discovery and Theories of the Nazca Lines
Toribio Mejia Xesspe is credited with the modern discovery of the Nazca lines. He came across them in 1927 while hiking through the area, although on foot he had no way of knowing the full picture of his discovery. Years later the lines and images were viewed by aircraft. It was Erich von Daniken of Switzerland to first suggest that the Nazca lines, particularly the crisscrossed etchings in the terrain, were an ancient runway, built for some type of aircraft or spaceship to land on.
In the 1940s, the American explorer Paul Kosok visited the Nazca lines. He theorized that they had astronomical significance. Another American, Gerald Hawkins, tested this theory with computer software. He found that the geoglyphs have a weak relationship to the stars. An English explorer, Tony Morrison, suggested that the Nazca lines were religious shrines, perhaps used in religious ceremonies by the ancient Nazca Indians.
There is some thought that they had some connection with water. The deserts of southern Peru are extremely dry and the area around Nazca gets less than one inch of rain each year. Presently, researchers David Johnson and Steve Mabee are gathering data to determine if the lines may be related to underground water sources. It is also possible that the lines were used in ancient rituals to attract rainfall to the area.
Facts on the Nazca Lines
There are many theories on the purpose behind the construction of the Nazca lines, but no one knows exactly why they were made. What is known is that they were built sometime between 500 BC and 500 AD. They were made by removing the reddish gravel from the ground, leaving the lighter-colored terrain underneath visible.
There are two different types of geoglyphs. One depicts living creatures. There are clear representations of a spider, a monkey, a killer whale, and a hummingbird. The largest image is that of a pelican, which is 285 meters long. There are also flowers, trees, and other creatures, such as a figure with two human hands, but only four fingers. The other type of images are lines and geometric shapes including spirals, crisscrossed lines, rectangles, and triangles.
The reason that the Nazca lines have survived through the centuries is the extremely arid, windless climate. The Nazca area is dry, still, and desolate, the perfect conditions to preserve these gigantic drawings.
The Nazca lines are still a profound and intriguing mystery. Perhaps if researchers from different disciplines, astronomers, anthropologists, and even mathematicians, coordinated their theories, then it would be possible to make more discoveries about why these geoglyphs were made. For now they are a beautiful and mysterious window into the ancient past of mankind.