In the early 1900s when traveling by air was gaining reputation as the easiest way to cross vast distances. Flyers crossing the South American peaks at high altitudes noticed something strange below within the 200 square mile Nazca desert. About 250 miles south of Lima, Peru was an arid, dry plateau containing a surplus of markings in the ground mainly in the shape of animals and people, but also hundreds of random figures and dispersed lines. This was nothing new to the local indigenous as they have always known about these marks inscribed on the dusty floor. Consequently, it was only until they viewed these markings from the air, that their true designs came to light. Upon this discovery, sparked a worldwide debate and study on to what these markings meant, and why they happened to be there.
It seemed to be that the images were produced using gravel, soil, and colored under crust of the floor. Since the Nazca desert receives less than an inch of rainfall each year, and the wind gusts are kept to a minimal, the odd shapes were clearly preserved for hundreds of years. The Nazca Lines are made up of over 800 different figures, including animals such as spiders, monkeys, and birds, as well as geometric shapes and human figures. The largest of these figures is the Nazca hummingbird, which measures over 120 meters in length. Numerous lines that form triangles, squares, hexagons, and other forms of geometry line the floor running in unsystematic directions and at random lengths – one to which extends nine miles.
One of the most interesting things about the Nazca Lines is that they can only be fully appreciated from the air. From the ground, the lines appear to be nothing more than shallow scratches on the surface of the desert. It is only when viewed from above that the true complexity and beauty of the lines becomes apparent.
The Nazca was a race who colonized the area over three millennia ago, they were notorious for having developed skills in pottery, architecture, and weaving. It is assumed the Nazca were the ones who constructed the lines. However, it is impossible to accurately determine the actual date on which they were created. Cahauchi, which is a town just south of the Nazca line is thought to be the home of the Nazca line creators. Experts suggested the Nazca people ended up fleeing after bouts of disastrous natural catastrophes, while the ones left behind were slaughtered by Spanish conquerors.
It is commonly wondered why a race would want to draw images that could only be admired from a bird’s eye view. It is believed that the Nazca culture created the lines as part of their religious practices. Some experts believe that the lines may have been used to mark the path of the sun and other celestial bodies as part of their astronomical observations. Others believe that the lines may have been used in ceremonies to honor the gods or to mark the boundaries of the Nazca territory.
The most observed theory was one suggested by Dr. Maria Reiche. She attempted to prove correlation between the stars in the sky and the animals which had been imprinted on the earth’s relation to each other. Her idea explained that as the earth turned through the universe, any line facing any direction will coincide with an astronomical feature. As expected, her views were not widely accepted due to the insignificant date determination factor. Unfortunately, after spending a lifetime of study and intrigue, Reiche passed away in 1998 and was able to be buried within the Nazca valley.
Throughout the 1960s, popular writers such as Erich von Daniken, Louis Pauwels, and Jacques Bergier proposed the notion that the Nazca lines were a possible beacon used to signify extraterrestrials on where to land. Alternative theories suggest the lines were used as an astronomical calendar; for religious purposes; or an above ground marker for underground water sources. It has never been fully addressed why the images were devised to be seen from the sky, but one startling theory suggests the Nazca people were the first aviators of humans and had invented the first hot air balloon.
With decades of archaeological studies and discoveries, our modern understanding of the Nazca civilization has thoroughly developed. However, the future of the Nazca lines seems to be in grave peril. People who have been trying to preserve the Nazca lines are worried about ongoing threats of pollution and erosion precipitated by deforestation in the nearby area. With addition to surges of gold and copper mining in the region, the designs have been defaced by industrial activities. The never-ending expansion of the local population implies a need for a higher level of basic resources, which means the utility providers are running cables and pipes over the lines. All this combined with natural weathering and corrosion insinuates that the most puzzling and peculiar display of an early race is in danger of being lost from human history forever.
Despite the many theories about the purpose of the Nazca Lines, the true reason for their creation remains a mystery. Some experts believe that the lines may have had multiple purposes and may have been used for a variety of different cultural and religious practices.
In addition to their cultural and historical significance, the Nazca Lines are also an important ecological resource. The lines are in an area that is home to a variety of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The Nazca Lines are a reminder of the rich cultural history of Peru and the important role that ancient cultures played in shaping the world we know today.