Nazca Lines


Location: Nazca Desert, 12 mi (20 km) North of Nazca Map

Info: Nazca Municipalidad (Town Hall)

Tel. 056 522 418

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Description of Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines MapNazca Lines are located 12 mi (20 km) North of Nazca in Peru. These lines were created between 500 BC and 500 AD these spectacular creations went largely unnoticed until 1930's than the pilot saw shapes of animals, trees and various geometric figures. The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs or large design in the Nazca Desert in the South- Eastern Peru. Nazca Desert is an extensive arid plateau that stretches for more than 80 km (50 miles) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana. The closest city to the giant desert art is a town of Nazca that is located 400 km South of Peruvian capital of Lima. You can take a bus from Lima (7 hour drive) or Arequipa (8 hours) to Nazca plateau. In 1994 the Nazca Lines were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its importance.

The Nazca Lines were created over a course of several centuries between 500 BC and 500 AD by the Nazca culture. Over 300 different giant forms can be divided into two general forms. Some lines are abstract and don't have an exact design or logic behind them. Other lines (other 70 shapes in total) form zoomorphic designs of human like figures, birds, fish, and animals including llamas, jaguars, monkeys, whales and many others. Some of the geoglyphs also depict phytomorphic (plant like) shapes such as trees and flowers. Al the animals and birds are easily recognizable and can easily be found in the region of South Peru. The largest shapes in the complex of Nazca Lines reach a total length of 1,200 feet (370 meters) long.

The Nazca Lines were created by setting an outline using ropes and stakes that were inserted into a soft desert surface. Archaeological digs in the area discovered remains of some of these wooden stakes and remains of broken ropes that were discarded by the ancient people. After the shape would be established workers would remove reddish stones (due to high presence of ferrous oxide in their composition) from the surface of the Nazca Desert and exposing lower lighter whitish- grey soils. Lower levels of the Nazca desert didn't have the same century old patina and thus appear lighter.

 If you walk along these lines on the ground you won't be impressed with its appearance. They are pretty shallow in depth and stretch for hundreds of feet. Dry plateau of the Nazca Desert get very few rains and has minimal wind thus erosion has little effect on the ancient creation. The biggest threat today are irresponsible tourists and locals who try to walk over these lines, thus causing damage to their integrity.

The Hummingbird

Nazca Lines

The Monkey

Nazca Lines

Human- like figure (aka Alien")

Nazca Lines

The Condor
The Condor
Viewing platform and a tree

Nazca Lines

The Dog

Nazca Lines

The Heron
The Heron
The Whale
The Whale


Re- discovery of the Nazca Lines

The first documented records describing the Nazca Lines date back to the earliest European Spanish expansion of the Conquistadors. They were first described by Pedro Cieza de Leon, Spanish conquistador and chronicles of Peru, in his book he published in 1553. He described them as extensive network of roads and trails that the ancient people used to cross the Nazca Desert.

The Nazca Lines were first studied in 1927 by the Peruvian archaeologist, anthropologists and a doctor Toribio Mejia Xesspe who hiked through the area to get a better view of giant forms on the ground. You can't see all the geoglyphs from a single point so he had to make large walks to observe most of the Nazca Lines. He presented his finding at a conference in Lima in 1939. However the Nazca Lines became famous among long military and civilian pilots who made regular flights of the Nazca Lines in 1930s.

Another famous scholar who explored the Nazca Lines was Paul Kosok, a history professor from American Long Island University. He explored the region in 1940- 41. At some point he tried to study a system of irrigation canals that he mistakenly assumed to belong to the Inca Empire. Once he rented a plane and took it to the skies, he realized that the irrigation system has a shape of a bird. He was later joined by Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist in an attempt to understand the purpose of creation of the Nazca Lines. While they could easily understand the methods how the lines were created proposing a single theory for its purpose became much more illusive. To this date we don't have a single theory that would explain the reason for their creation.

Despite commonly held wide belief the Nazca Lines are visible from the nearby hills. Although today a viewing platform is erected, you won’t be able to see the whole picture from the ground. Rented planes in Nazca village are probably a better option. Tours usually last 30 to 45 minutes and cost 31- 50$. Planes leave in the morning and early afternoon. Best times are 8- 11 am than it is not too busy.

Theories on origins of the Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are just as enigmatic today as they were when they were seen by first European explorers five hundred years ago. Those theories range from scientific to outlandish and eccentric. These are just of those theories.

Spanish conquistador and an explorer Pedro Cieza de Leon who visited the Nazca Lines in 1553 believed that these lines were ancient roads that were part of the Incan Empire. He believed that the native tribes constructed them for an easy access to distant corners of the Incan Empire.

Peruvian doctor and anthropologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe who explored the Nazca Desert in 1927 believed that these were the great Incan ceremonial artifacts. He suggested that they allowed the high priests of the Incan people to track rise of celestial bodies over the horizon. Standing in a certain sacred spot on the surrounding hills allowed the priests use these lines for tracking of the sky above.

Jim Woodmann proposed an interesting theory about the Nazca culture that once flourished in this inhospitable lands. He theorized that the lines were inspected by the priests of these native not from the surrounding hills, but from the hot air balloons that they used to fly other Nazca plateau. He analyzed and explored the remains of the textiles that were found in the graves of the Nazca people. He discovered that these linens were strong and durable enough to keep ho air inside. To test his hypothesis Jim Woodmann constructed a hot air balloon using traditional textiles and other materials commonly found in the region. The test was a success, nevertheless it remains highly controversial in the scientific community. While the native people did have the materials to build a giant balloon in the middle of the Nazca desert there is no credible evidence that the ancients could master the flight. It is nevertheless an interesting theory and worth pursuing.

Alternative theories for the creation of the Nazca Lines

However these theories are nothing comparing to amount of theories and proposition that came out in the second half of the 20th century. As an obsession for the UFO began to grow in the Western society along with awareness of existence of the Nazca Lines so did the their theories about their purpose began to flourish accordingly.

Erich von Daniken wrote in his 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods, that these lines represented an early example of the cargo cult of the Nazca people. He proposed that the alien space ships once landed on the surface of the Nazca Desert. For whatever reason they left never to return. Local native tribes hence assumed that the only way to attract space explorers back to Earth is by construction of huge lines to appease the creatures that they viewed as gods back to their lands in hopes of good grace and lots of presents or hidden knowledge that they carried. According to Ancient Astronaut Theory, ancient alien space ships used these lines to navigate in the area.

However this theory as well as other UFO theories have several problems. For one some of the Nazca Lines are broken and follow the path that would be unsuitable for landing of any type of vessel. In fact their logic and location escape the logic altogether. Some of the lines begin on the flat surface and follow into the slopes of the Andes mountains without credible explanation. Additionally the surface of the Nazca Desert would be unsuitable for landing of anything heavy without construction of the proper runways and artificial surfaces.