The lines of history are still a mystery
(24/02/2014) The Nazca lines are the most famous geoglyphs in the world. They were carved out in the desert in Peru by the Nazca people about 2500 years ago. All together there are over 100 figures.
The Nazca lines are the most significant historical finding from the Nazca people, who lived in the Ica valley in Southern Peru in between 800 AD to 100 AD. The geoglyphs consist of shallow designs that are carved into the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the white-gray ground beneath it. By doing this procedure the Nazca people created hundreds of lines that make up over 100 different geometric shapes. More than seventy of the figures feature animals such as birds, fishes, lamas, jaguars or monkeys. Other designs include trees, flowers and human beings. The largest figures are more than 200 meters across. The lines themselves are superficial and only about 10 to 30 centimeters deep. Therefore their preservation is endangered by climate changes.
The first record of the Nazca lines dates back to a book from the 1553. But the lines were not considered special at that point but were mistaken for trail markers. After that the lines were forgotten about until 1939 when Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe discussed them at a conference in Lima. He had re-discovered the lines when he was hiking through the foothills in 1927 and had spotted them from the foothills.
Ever since the 1940s several scholars have studied the Nazca lines. Despite this their purpose has remained a bit of a mystery. One hypothesis is that the lines were created to be seen by their gods in the sky. But exactly why is still a mystery in 2013. Some scholars argue that the historical lines have been used for religious sacrifice, while others insist that the animals are symbols for fertility. Other scholars argue that the lines purpose was related to astronomy and were used as an observatory. Yet another scholar claims that the lines were made to worship the mountain gods so that they would supply water for their crops. Perhaps the mystery of the Nazca lines will be solved in the next decade as a Japanese University opened a research center at the site in 2012 with the intent of studying the lines for the next 15 years.
In 1994 the Nazca Lines became an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the Nazca Lines can be spotted from the surrounded foothills they are best viewed by airplane. If you want to visit the Nazca lines you can travel to Peru with us on our 16 day Peru Classic Program or our 19 days Peru Off Road Adventure Program.
Text by: Karin Schill.