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Nazca Desert, 12 mi (20 km) North of Nazca
Nazca Municipalidad (Town Hall)
Description of Nazca Lines
Nazca 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
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.
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
figure (aka Alien")
Viewing platform and a tree
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
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
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-
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
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.