The Nazca Lines - Description
The Nasca Lines are located in the Pampa region of Peru. The desolate plain
of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana),
Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, which is 400
Km. South of Lima, covers an area of approximately 450 square km, of sandy
desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes.
Click to enlarge.
The Lines were first spotted when commercial airlines began
flying across the Peruvian desert in the 1920's. Passengers reported
seeing 'primitive landing strips' on the ground below. No one knew
who had built them or indeed why. Since their discovery, the Nasca
Lines have inspired fantastic explanations.
On the pampa, south of the Nasca Lines, archaeologists have now
uncovered the lost city of the line-builders, Cahuachi. It was built
nearly two thousand years ago and was mysteriously abandoned 500
years later. New discoveries at Cahuachi are at last beginning to
give us insight into the Nasca people and to unravel the mystery of
the Nasca Lines.
Cahuachi is emerging as a treasure trove of the Nasca culture. As
Orefici and his team excavate, discoveries of paintings on preserved
pottery, and the ancient technique of weaving that the Nasca people
developed, have given an insight into how the lines may have been
made, and what they might have been used for, more than 1500 years
Most exciting is the discovery of human remains. Stunningly
preserved in the dry soil of the Peruvian desert are the mummified
bodies of the Nasca themselves.
Originally believed to have been a military stronghold, Cahuachi
is now reckoned to be a place of ritual and ceremony, and Orefici's
stunning new evidence confirms this idea. Cahuachi is now revealed
to have been abandoned after a series of natural disasters destroyed
the city. But before they left it, the Nasca people covered the city
in the arid pampa sand where, until recently, it has remained a
barely visible mound in the desert.
Composition of the Lines
The pebbles which cover the surface of the desert contain ferrous
oxide. The exposure of centuries has given them a dark patina. When
the gravel is removed, they contrast with the color underneath. In
this way the lines were drawn as furrows of a lighter color, even
though in some cases they became prints. In other cases, the stones
defining the lines and drawings form small lateral humps of
different sizes. Some drawings, especially the early ones, were made
by removing the stones and gravel from their contours and in this
way the figures stood out in high relief.
Here is the size of some of the most famous Nasca geoglyphs:
- The Spider, approximately 46m long,
- The Monkey, 55m long,
- The Guanay (guano bird), 280m long,
- The Lizzard 180m,
- The Hummingbird, 50m long,
- The Killer Whale, 65m long or
- The Pelican - the largest of them all - at 285m long.
The Nazca Lines are the most outstanding group of geoglyphs in the
world. There are also huge geoglyphs in Egypt, Malta, United States
(Mississippi and California), Chile, Bolivia and in other countries.
But the Nasca geoglyphs, because of their numbers, characteristics,
dimensions and cultural continuity as they were made and remade
through out the whole prehispanic period, form the most impressive
as well as enigmatic archeological group.
Faint geometric figures (GGF drawing). Click
here to find more
The Nazca plain is virtually unique for its ability to preserve the
markings upon it, due to the combination of the climate (one of the
driest on Earth, with only twenty minutes of rainfall per year) and
the flat, stony ground which minimises 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. These
factors, combined with the existence of a lighter-coloured subsoil
beneath the desert crust, provide a vast writing pad that is ideally
suited to the artist who wants to leave his mark for eternity.
The concentration and juxtaposition of the lines and drawings
leave no doubt that they required intensive long-term labor as is
demonstrated by the stylistic continuity of the designs, which
clearly correspond to the different stages of cultural changes.
There appear to be two kinds of designs: the first are figures of
various beings and things and the others form geometric lines. The
former consists of figures of animals, plants, objects, such as
anthropomorphic figures of colossal proportions made with
well-defined lines. Of these figures which have been restored by
Maria Reiche and other collaborators about 70 are known.
There are also drawings of flowers and plants, as well as
representations of deformed animals and other strange figures. An
example of this is the drawing of a weird being with two enormous
hands, one normal and the other with only four fingers. Also
represented are drawings of man-made objects such as yarn, looms and
"tupus" (ornamental clasps). All these figures have
well-defined entrances which could be used as paths or to allow
people to line together along the conformations of the drawings.
The anthropomorphic figures are relatively few and are situated
on the slopes. The most well-known being The Astronaut at 32m length
and E.T., discovered by Eduardo Herran in 1982. Others are The Man
with a Hat and The Executioner and they also appear to be the most
primitive. These figures are very similar to the small petroglyphs
found in the rocky areas of the region.
In terms of the lines, many kilometers long, they crisscross
sectors of the pampas in all directions. Many of the lines form
geometric figures: angles, triangles, bunches, spirals, rectangles,
wavy lines, etc. Other lines form concentric circles converging with
or emanating from a promontory. Other prints have formed
"roads" like geometric planes and appear to have been
occupied by large groups of the population.
Photo Copyright 2004 by World-Mysteries.com
Many of the lines are random and seem to have no pattern to them.
They are seen over the scattered seemingly at random over the
desolate plain, crossing and intersecting for no apparent reason.
Photo Copyright by Gilbert de Jong.
Photo Copyright by Gilbert de Jong.