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The famous Nazca Lines are intricate designs in the ground that cover an estimated 170 square miles in southern Peru. The large-scale etchings depicting people, animals and objects date to 2,000 years ago, when a pre-Inca civilization laid them in the Nazca Desert.
Many modern researchers have speculated about their meaning, but they still don’t know (and may never know) the reason they exist. And recent discoveries suggest there are still many more yet to discover.
In November 2019, researchers announced the detection of 143 new geoglyphs on southern Peru’s Nazca plain. The geoglyphs date from 100 B.C. to A.D. 300, and range in size from about 16 to 330 feet across (for comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall).
The drawings show cats, camels and other animals, as well as human figures wearing headdresses. One depicts a two-headed snake eating humans. Researchers from Yamagata University in Japan detected 142 of the 143 geoglyphs by performing fieldwork and analyzing high-resolution 3D data, and they detected the final glyph using artificial intelligence in partnership with IBM Japan.
The 143 geoglyphs add to the over 1,000 ancient designs already discovered in the Nazca (or “Nasca”) and Palpa regions of southern Peru. The Nazca Lines discovered so far consist of 800 straight lines, over 300 geometric designs and more than 70 animal and plant geoglyphs. In the nearby province of Palpa, there are about 50 geoglyphs of warriors and other figures carved into hillsides. Together, the Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa make up a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Yamagata researchers think ancient people created the 143 newly-discovered glyphs “by removing the black stones that cover the land, thereby exposing the white sand beneath,” explains the university in a press release. Researchers separated these glyphs into two groups: type A, which are larger, made of lines and likely date to the Early Nazca period (circa 100 to 300 A.C.); and type B, which are smaller, made of shapes and likely date to the Initial Nazca period (circa 100 B.C. 100).
“Fieldwork identified type A figures to be ritual places shaped like animals, where people held ceremonies involving the destruction of pottery vessels,” the press release states. “Meanwhile, type B figures were produced beside paths or on sloping inclines and are thought to have been used as wayposts when traveling.”
The geoglyph that AI identified is one of the smaller, older glyphs that may have served as a marker to travelers. It seems to depict a humanoid figure wearing a headdress and holding a staff, sword or other tool. The figure measures about 16 feet across and is located near a path, suggesting it may have served as a travel marker. However, like all of the Nazca Lines, researchers can’t say for sure what this figure represents.
The November 2019 discovery was the first time researchers used AI to identify a geoglyph in the region. And in fact, the glyph was so faded that researchers may not have identified it without this technology. Using AI to process large amounts of aerial data more quickly could help identify more lines, geometric designs and geoglyphs in the future.
In addition, AI could also help efforts to preserve these designs, which take up large swaths of land and are easily damaged. In 2014, Greenpeace activists left footprints at the Nazca Lines’ hummingbird geoglyph when they placed a sign there. And in 2018, a truck plowed over some of the Nazca Lines.
The Nazca civilization flourished on the southern coast of Peru between 200 BCE and 600 CE. They settled in the Nazca and other surrounding valleys with their principal religious and urban sites being Cahuachi and Ventilla, respectively. The culture is noted for its distinctive pottery, textiles, and the geoglyphs made on the desert floor known as Nazca lines.
The Nazca were contemporary with, and then outlasted, the Paracas culture and many Paracas sites have been discovered beneath Nazca settlements. Politically, the Nazca civilization has been described as a collection of chiefdoms occasionally acting in unison for mutual interest rather than as a single unified state. Or as M.E. Moseley puts it, "individuality - with cultural coherence, but without large-scale or integrated power - were Nazca hallmarks". This interpretation is reinforced by the art and architecture of the Nazca which displays common themes across settlements but at the same time there is a general lack of uniform town planning or evidence of centralization. The maximum population of the Nazca has been estimated at 25,000 people, spread across small villages which were typically built on terraced hillsides near irrigated floodplains.
As they developed, the Nazca extended their influence into the Pisco Valley in the north and the Acari Valley in the south. In addition, as llamas, alpaca and vicuna do not survive in the coastal areas the use of their wool in Nazca textiles is evidence that trade was established with highland cultures. In addition, Nazca mummies have been discovered wearing headdresses made with the feathers of rainforest birds, once again, illustrating that goods were traded across great distances.
Graves, often placed up to 4.5 metres deep and accessed via a shaft, are the richest source of Nazca artefacts and reveal many aspects of the culture. Fine pottery and textiles were buried with the dead and with no particular distinction between male and female burials. The deceased is mummified, carefully wrapped in textiles and usually placed in a seated position, skulls sometimes display deliberate elongation, and we know the Nazca wore tattoos. Tombs, especially shaft ones lined with mud bricks, could be re-opened and more mummies added, perhaps indicating ancestor worship. Caches of trophy-heads often accompany the mummy, many showing signs of trephination which allowed several to be strung on a single cord as illustrated in pottery designs. Trophy-heads are also frequently incorporated into textile designs, especially in miniature and as border decoration. There were also burials of what appear to be sacrificial victims. These have the eyes blocked and excrement was placed in the mouth which was then pinned shut with cactus needles. Alternatively, the tongue was removed and kept in a cloth pouch.
Weakened by a generation-long drought in the 5th century CE, the Nazca were eventually conquered by the Wari - who assumed many of their artistic traits - and Nazca settlements, thereafter, never rose beyond provincial status.
Ventilla was the Nazca urban capital and covered over 2 square kilometres (495 acres) and included ceremonial mounds, walled courts, and terraced housing. To fight the ever-present threat of drought the Nazcans built an extensive network of underground aqueducts, galleries, and cisterns in order to ensure a good water-supply during the dry season and minimize evaporation. These were reached by impressive descending spiral ramps and lined with river cobbles.
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Founded c. 100 BCE, Cahuachi, on the south bank of the Nazca River, 50 km inland, was a site of pilgrimage and the Nazca religious capital. It was probably first considered sacred because it was one of the few locations with a guaranteed year-round water supply. The lack of domestic architecture indicates it was not used as a place of habitation.
The sacred site covers 11.5 square kilometres (2,841 acres) and has around 40 large adobe mounds which take advantage of natural hills. The largest mound, known as the Great Temple, is over 20 metres high. All of the mounds have an adjoining plaza and are topped by adobe walls. The largest plaza measure 47 x 75 metres. A low wall, 40 cm high, surrounded the main sacred precinct. Posts and postholes across the site suggest canopies protected worshippers from the sun. Textile scenes also suggest that religious gatherings were connected to harvest festivals, and piles of rubbish consisting mostly of pottery shards at the site indicate ritual feasting. This rubbish was deliberately left so that it became a part of the mound. Consequently, the larger the mound, the more it had been used in rituals. Some mounds also contained burials and large pots containing fine textiles given as religious offerings.
More details of the religious ceremonies that may have been carried out at Cauachi are depicted in Nazca art, especially on pottery, and many are scenes involving shamans. These religious figures, in a drug-induced trance, appealed to nature spirits to guarantee favourable conditions for agricultural abundance. Music was an important part of these rites, as is evidenced by the abundance of ceramic drums and panpipes in the archaeological record. The principal Nazca god seems to have been the Oculate Being who is represented in art as a flying deity figure wearing strings of trophy-heads. He is frequently depicted in pottery and textile designs in a horizontal position with streamers flowing from his body. Large staring eyes and a snake-like tongue are other typical features.
The Nazca drew geoglyphs and lines across the surrounding deserts and hills which were either stylized drawings of animals, plants, and humans or simple lines which connected sacred sites or pointed to water sources. Their exact purpose is disputed, but the most widely held theory is that they were designed to be walked along as part of religious rites and processions.
These ancient lines were made remarkably easily and quickly by removing the oxidised darker surface rocks which lay closely scattered across the lighter coloured desert pampa floor. Most designs are only visible from the air, but some were made on hillsides and so are visible from the ground.
Lines could be single - both straight and curved - or in groups and could cross each other in complicated networks. The width and length of lines can vary one of the longest straight lines is 20 km long and the total combined length of Nazca lines has been estimated at over 1,300 km. Those lines used to describe a specific shape are generally composed of a single continuous line. Designs could be geometric shapes or animals such as a hummingbird, spider and even a killer whale. Trees, plants, and flowers were another subject, as were human figures.
The scale of the designs can be huge many are at least the size of a sports field. They were also made over several centuries and very often newer designs overlap and ignore older ones which would strongly suggest a lack of long-term and unified planning and, therefore, that they were made by different groups at different times and served more than a single purpose.
The Nazca have achieved a reputation for great artistry and their finely worked pottery is an excellent example. Vessels were thin-walled and could take on a wide variety of shapes. Distinctive forms include the double-spouted containers with a single handle and generally bulbous vessels without a flat bottom or base. Bowls, beakers, jars, effigy drums, and panpipes were also common. There were also vessels in the shape of human heads, no doubt inspired by the Nazca practice of taking trophy-heads following battles.
Influenced by the earlier Paracas culture designs, Nazca pottery vessels were decorated with a slip (before firing) to produce a wide array of vividly rendered patterns, gods, shamanic imagery, crustaceans, condors, monkeys, and mythical transformational creatures, especially felines. The Nazca went on to create their own unique style and designs evolved from naturalistic to highly ornamented and then to highly abstract forms. Often the design covers the entire vessel producing a wrap-around three-dimensional effect, even a narrative, for example, with battle scenes. Designs might also exploit the contours of the vessel, for example, a nose on a protruding part. Designs can also overlap each other to create the illusion of space and depth.
Maroon, light purple, and blue-grey were a favourite choice of colours but a very wide range was used, more, in fact, than in any other ancient Andean culture. Backgrounds were usually in white, red, or black. Outlining figures in black was another feature and another example of the Nazca delight in linear design. A final polishing gave the colours a fine shine.
Nazca Textiles & Metalwork
The Nazca, like many cultures in South America, were fond of not only wool weaving and embroidery but also of painting plain cotton cloth with an array of colourful images and motifs. Textiles have survived remarkably well, thanks to the extremely dry climate, and they illustrate that Nazca weavers possessed the full range of Andean techniques and employed an astonishing range of colours and shades to produce intricate and detailed designs. Figures were especially popular in designs and most often are depicted participating in harvest scenes which show such foodstuffs as maize and beans. Animal figures, similar to those in the geoglyphs and pottery designs, were also a popular subject. Looms, spindles, needles, cotton balls, and pots of dyes have all been excavated from Nazca settlements.
Nazca metalworkers beat gold into thin sheets which were cut to create silhouettes. Preferring to keep surfaces smooth and reflective, only a little repoussé work provides sparing decoration. Masks were produced which were worn over the mouth and made the wearer appear to have a golden beard and whiskers. Gold full-face masks, hair plumes, and nose and forehead ornaments were also produced. These gold masks transform the face of the wearer and recall the transformation ceremonies carried out by the shamans who were such a popular subject in Nazca art.
The ruins of an ancient mega temple in Peru, believed to have been built some 3,000 years ago, are uncovered in an archeological excavation.
It is believed that the temple was dedicated to water worship. It was concluded by experts on the basis of the location of altars, their shape, and their position.
In the archeological complex Huaca El Toro, in Oyotún district of Peru’s Lambayeque, old megalithic remains were discovered.
Walter Alva, director of the Sipan Museum Royal Tombs, stated that the Temple is situated near the junction of two ancient rivers, the Nanchoc River and the Udima River Sacred Place.
It is precisely there where an ancient culture chose to construct a massive temple.
Although temples are not a rarity in Peru, this is the only megalithic structure that has been discovered so far in Peru’s Lambayeque region.
To the surprise of archaeologists, excavations revealed that the ancient temple had been constructed entirely of supermassive stones. The facade, as well as the side wall s of the temple, were all built using massive granite blocks.
Some of the megalithic stones bear messages on their surfaces. The symbols suggest that the massive granite blocks were hauled from sacred places.
The temple was used as a center for the worship of water. In front of the megalithic construction are altars representing the cult of water. Water is thought to have been considered divine at the time.
The temple was surrounded by tiny wells or “pocitos” that the ancient people used to predict rainy seasons.
Based on archeological evidence the researchers concluded that from around 1,500 BC to around 292 AD, as many as three construction phases took place.
The oldest of the three construction phases saw the use of smaller conical adobes where its builder used stones of smaller dimensions. The second construction phase was an evolution in construction techniques where larger stones were used.
It was in the third construction phase that its builders opted for the use of megalithic stones.
The temple features a circular column where archeologists discovered evidence of sedimentation of rains and rituals.
The temple faces the mountain and experts argue the structure was used strictly for ceremonial practices. They discovered signs of burning rock at the site. The ancients may as well have used the site to perform rituals linked to fertility.
The discovery also features a tomb from the Final Formative period during which the temple is thought to have lost importance. The archaeologists also uncovered around 20 tombs that belonged to the Chimu-Inca culture, indicating the tombs were probably reused in later times.
All of the tombs feature pottery fragments as well as metal objects that were placed as offerings next to the tombs.
Archeologists explained that the site is regarded as the central water cult temple for the entire Zaña Valley.
Around 300 BC when the Chavin culture lost power, the temple lost its importance which coincides with the appearance of smaller theocratic societies, farmers and warriors.To build this site, ancient people had to move stones from mountains around 1.86 miles (3 kilometers) away.
Unexplainable Discovery: Ancient Indian Mandala Found at Peru’s Nazca Lines
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The Nazca lines of Peru are, without a doubt, the most enigmatic and mysterious geoglyphs ever discovered on the planet, but the discovery of an Ancient Indian Mandala makes the Nazca lines, even more, mysterious.
Many of us have wondered, together with countless scholars, what the exact purpose of the mysterious lines is… yet no one has been able to fully understand, nor answer, the exact purpose of these mysterious lines. Were these giant figures meant to be seen from above? Do hey mimic constellations in the sky? What were the ancient’s trying to say to future generations? Were the Nazca lines mere ancient art? If so… why would ancient mankind create art that cannot be fully appreciated from the ground?
These are some of the questions that have been asked for decades, yet no one has been able to answer them. There are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs also called biomorphs. The largest figure found at Nazca stretches about 200 meters across. Interestingly, the Longest glyph found at Nazca goes for 9 miles.
There are some scholars that have discovered curious patterns in the numerous designs and they suggest that the Nazca might be one of the earliest known examples of applied geometry. According to some claims, scientists from the University of Dresden researched the Nazca lines, measuring the magnetic field and electric conductivity and discovering that electric conductivity was 8000 higher on the Nazca lines than next to them.
But perhaps one of the most enigmatic depictions of Nazca is what is known as the Mandala. Depicted in an extremely remote area, it sits atop an arid mountain plateau, causing confusion among those who have been able to observe it directly.
The Mandala is considered a ritual symbol in Indian religions and represents the universe. Today, the mandala has become a generic term used to describe any diagram, chart or geometrical pattern that represents the cosmos. The Mandala also symbolizes the notion that life is, in fact, a never ending cycle. But what is it doing in Peru? Who created it… and for what purpose?
The Mandala at Nazca seems to have been carved with extreme precision and detail, created on the ground measuring around 180 feet across, with an inner circle of the same diameter. In addition, several other smaller circles, approximately 20 feet in diameter are etched in the landscape along with a series of strategically placed holes.
The Ancient Hindus were among the first people on the planet to use a Mandala spiritually, but the most famous Mandala most of us know are in fact made by Buddhists. In Ancient Sanskrit, mandala means ‘circle’, even though the depiction of the symbol may be dominated by a set of squares or triangles, the mandala as a whole is a concentric creation.
Archeologists today have failed to understand, or even ask, how an ancient symbol, that originated half-way around the world, got to a remote, arid mountain near Nazca.
Interestingly, according to some local legends, the mysterious Incan creator god Viracocha, commissioned the Nazca Lines and glyphs in the past. These lines are said to be created by the Viracocha himself. He was the great teacher God of the Andes.
Viracocha was one of the most important deities in the Inca pantheon and seen as the creator of all things or the substance from which all things are created, and intimately associated with the sea. According to the myth recorded by Juan de Betanzos, Viracocha rose from Lake Titicaca (or sometimes the cave of Pacaritambo) during the time of darkness to bring forth light.
Mapping the Sky
One of the earliest scholarly explanations for the lines holds that they serve as a kind of ground-based astronomical calendar. When Paul Kosok, a historian at Long Island University, was conducting studies of the lines in the early 1940s, he claims to have been standing at the end of one line just after the winter solstice. Looking up, he noticed the line pointed directly at the setting sun, marking its position on the shortest day of the year. Further study convinced him that the lines marked key points on the horizon where celestial bodies would appear or disappear on important dates.
Others have postulated that the drawings of animals might be constellations. As a New York Times obituary of Kosok’s protege Maria Reiche explains, both Reiche and collaborator Phyllis Pitluga believed some of the lines depicted patterns in the sky. This theory, however, has been contested by other scholars.
In all likelihood, the different lines and drawings may have had different meanings and purposes. Some may have indeed pointed to astronomical events, while others may have had purely ritual uses. Others still may have had a more prosaic purpose. As Ruggles and Saunders, who found the labyrinth in 2012, note, some of the lines may simply have been walking paths across the desert. These well-worn lines snake around hills and other obstructions, in contrast to the perfectly straight lines found in other drawings.
And even today, new drawings are being discovered in the desert. A Japanese team in 2019 announced the discovery of 143 new figures in the Nazca desert and surroundings. They include birds, monkeys, snakes and foxes — one so faint it required the help of an AI algorithm to uncover.
The hunt for new geoglyphs continues, as does speculation over what the lines meant to their creators. With each new discovery, we’ll likely have more and more information. Though whether it will be enough to divine the geoglyph’s meaning for certain, we may never know.
I only heard of the Nazca Lines in Peru from Unsolved Mysteries nowadays I'm content to watch re-runs of this series and I hear of and learn something new every time about the In can Nazca Line's.
I've recently been Studying an exciting (at least for me) The Bible Book's of Enoch. These books are quite revealing the books provides a window into what The Heavens and Earth was like before the Great Flood.
Enoch reveals the mind blowing testimony regarding some Wicked Angel's known as the Watchers it was about 200 of them.
In addition to Sinning against God by Marrying Human Women and having children by these women they also revealed to their Life Partners and Families forbidden Secrets pertaining to God and The Mysteries of the Universe.
Now these secrets we weren't supposed to have a knowledge about. If it were not for Adam and Eve's Sin we might have learned somethings later on when we were ready.
Okay, so what does the Nazca Lines have to do with Enoch?
I think those Lines in Peru has to do with the Forbidden Secrets that those Angels divulged to The Human Race somehow.
Because a few of those Fallen Angel's called The Watchers like I said that numbered 200, actually, had something to do with Astrology and Astronomy their skill set gifted to them by God which they abused dealt with somehow The Sun, The Moon and The Star's.
People who have Studied the Nazca Lines have continually pointed out the Astronomical line up of those Nazca Lines that matches with The Star's in The Universe.
Triangulation vectors . to what end. I take it you get lost in the bush, city and maybe even your own backyard .the suggestion is more ludicrous than the Ancient Astronaut theory. and suggests the builders would be lost to known water sources or maybe the suggestion is for a future people who would not know of the water source( scarce) and the builders would like to share this rare commodity by drawing lines for kilometers that do not point to the actual water source but rather in a different direction and the lost ones can thus deduce the location by trigonometry, also to suggest no one has visited this planet is the gullible end of a rote system inductee. although I do not adhere to the AA theory, it is a theory with credence given the tech advances in the last 200 years. one day we will be the Ancient Astronaut.
While I agree with most of what you stated, you come off way too autodidactic. You weren't there, on the Nazca plain, watching the construction from a scaffold made out of sand?! And nobody is legitimized by a single label-drop sentence, sheesh. Truth is, as you stated, these geoglyphs were made for many purposes the most esoteric of which we will probably never understand.
And the Incas built Puma Punko.
"The fact that the Nazca lines were meant to be seen fully only from the air has led some to speculate that aliens were involved in their making."
Yes, Ancient Origins went there.
"The fact that the underground sewerage system can be seen only with ground-penetrating radar has led some to believe that the pipes were installed by giant Mole People."
Also, while some of the lines were most definitely for guidance in travels (the hummingbird, for example), others were for different purposes: some were astronomical markers (the condor, for example), and some were triangulating vectors for the location of underground water sources (the long, converging lines, for example). Others were probably associated with ceremonial locations. In other words, the Nazca lines and glyphs were built for a number of purposes.
Finally, returning to the UFO theorists who somehow got legitimized by mention in this article, quite a few of the Nazca lines can be seen from the hills surrounding them. Moreover, it would not have been an engineering feat beyond the Nazca to have built tall supervision scaffolds to oversee construction. They were quite creative people, if rather morbid in their choices for home decor accents (like the mummified skulls complete with holes for dangle ropes).
I do dearly love Ancient Origins, and I certainly understand the commercial need for simplification and sensationalization when trying to appeal to a popular audience, but I must say that it takes a little longer to read these articles than it should, given that I must always first go down to my kitchen to take a grain of salt before starting.
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.
'Because they have been degraded, it is difficult to determine the exact shape of the picture on the ground of all the animals,' the researchers said told the Telegraph.
The head of the team, Dr. Masato Sakai,said: 'They made these kinds of geoglyphs on the sides of hills so they could be clearly seen,' he said, adding the images' sizes range from 16 feet to 66 feet tall.
The team identified five distinct new groups of images, but say expansion in the area could ruin them.
Researchers took 3D scans of the ground where patterns were difficult to spot
One analysed the images revealed the patterns clearly
'Nazca geoglyphs are being affected by the expansion of urban areas. We want to preserve them by sharing their importance with local people,' he said.
The team of Asian researchers began investigating the Nazca culture in 2004, and has since found around 50 new geometric figures since.
The Nazca lines and huge animal images were designated as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1994.
Several appear to show animals
The Nazca lines and huge animal images were designated as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1994.
The geoglyphs, discovered about 1½ km north of the town of Nazca in southern Peru, include what looks like a llama and other unrecognizable land pictures
The purpose of the mysterious Nazca Lines in Peru has long puzzled archaeologists.
But now a team of researchers says they may have been used separately by two cultures, for different reasons.
One group may used them as part of a religious pilgrimage, but another may have smashed pots at their corners in religious ceremonies.
The Nazca Lines are located in the Nazca desert in South Peru. However, their purpose and origin has remained somewhat of a mystery since they were first seriously studied in the 20th Century
Scientists in Japan studied the Nazca Lines in Peru, and they found different sets were used for different reasons. One type was used as part of a religious pilgrimage but, 200 years later, another group smashed pots on them for a ceremony. Shown is a view of the famous 'spaceman' Nazca Line drawing
The new research, reported by Live Science, was conducted by the University of Yamagata University in Japan.
They examined 100 of these so-called geoglyphs - huge structures drawn in the ground, some tens or hundreds of metres wide.
And they deduced that two separate groups of people created and used the lines.
Most of the strange lines seem to head towards a pre-Incan temple complex known as Cahuachi, a religious centre that pilgrims travelled to.
One group of lines, including animals like the condor, is found in an area near the Ingenio Valley and towards Cahuachi, possibly an ancient religious route.
Another group, which includes apparently supernatural beings, is found mostly in the Nazca Valley and towards Cahuachi from a different direction.
One group of lines, including animals like the condor, is found in an area near the Ingenio Valley and towards Cahuachi, possibly an ancient religious route. Another group, which includes apparently supernatural beings, is found mostly in the Nazca Valley and towards Cahuachi from a different direction (shown in map)
The researchers deduced that that first group was made during a time called the Formative period, up until 200AD.
This group of people used the lines solely as part of their pilgrimage to Cahuachi.
But a second group in the Nazca period, up until 450 AD, used the lines for a different purpose they seemed to smash ceramic pots at the intersection of the lines, possibly for religious ceremonies.
Evidence for this comes from the remains of pots smashed during this time period.
All of the strange lines seem to head towards a pre-Incan temple complex known as Cahuachi (pictured), a religious centre that pilgrims travelled to
One group of lines, including animals like the condor or spider (shown), is found in an area near the Ingenio Valley and towards Cahuachi, possibly an ancient religious route
'Our research revealed that the Formative geoglyphs were placed to be seen from the ritual pathways, while those of the early Nazca period were used as the loci of ritual activities such as intentional destructions of ceramic vessels,' lead researcher Dr Masato Sakai told Live Science.
Further supporting the 'multiple groups' theory is that the lines have been created in different ways.
Some have been made by removing rocks from the interior of the shapes, but others were made by removing the border.
THE MYSTERY OF PERU'S NAZCA LINES
The geoglyphs, more commonly known as the Nazca Lines, were apparently first spotted in 1939 when a pilot flew over the Nasca planes of the Peruvian coastal highlands - although its likely they were seen by locals on hill tops much earlier.
They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and the area stretches more than 50 miles (80km) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, about 250 miles (400km) south of Lima.
Some 700 geoglyphs are thought to have been drawn by the ancient Nazca people between the first and sixth centuries.
The Nazca Lines are drawn into lighter coloured strata which contrasts with darker gravels on the plain.
In general terms, the geoglyphs fall into two categories: the first group, of which about 70 have been identified, are said to represent natural objects, such as animals, birds and insects
Many of the images also appeared on pottery and textiles of the region. Other drawings represent flowers, plants, and trees.
A second is made from lines and more basic shapes such as spirals, triangle and rectangles.
Archaeological surveys have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support theory the ancient people used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines.
Most of the lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth of between four inches (10cm) and six inches (15cm), made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert and exposing the light-coloured earth beneath.
Most of the lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth of between four inches (10cm) and six inches (15cm), made by removing the iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert to expose the light-coloured earth beneath
This sublayer contains high amounts of lime which has down the years hardened to form a protective layer that shields the lines from winds and prevents erosion.
Contrary to the popular belief that the figures can only be seen from the air, they are actually visible from the surrounding foothills.
Paul Kosok, from Long Island University, is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines.
He discovered that the lines converged at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.
Along with Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist, Kosok proposed the figures were markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose.
What are the lines?
The lines are known as geoglyphs – drawings on the ground made by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image. The rocks which cover the desert have oxidized and weathered to a deep rust color, and when the top 12-15 inches of rock is removed, a light-colored, high contrasting sand is exposed. Because there’s so little rain, wind and erosion, the exposed designs have stayed largely intact for 500 to 2000 years.
Scientists believe that the majority of lines were made by the Nasca people, who flourished from around A.D. 1 to 700.
Certain areas of the pampa look like a well-used chalk board, with lines overlapping other lines, and designs cut through with straight lines of both ancient and more modern origin.
Theories and significance
The purpose of the lines continues to elude researchers and remains a matter of conjecture. Ancient Nazca culture was prehistoric, which means they left no written records.
One idea is that they are linked to the heavens with some of the lines representing constellations in the night sky. Another idea is that the lines play a role in pilgrimage, with one walking across them to reach a sacred place such as Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids. Yet another idea is that the lines are connected with water, something vital to life yet hard to get in the desert, and may have played a part in water-based rituals.
In the absence of a firm archaeological conclusion a number of fringe theories have popped up, such as the idea that the Nazca people used balloons to observe the lines from up high, something which there is no archaeological evidence for.