Colourful Peru

27 January, 2023

The Nazca Lines, mastodontic drawings only visible from the heights, are one of the great archaeological enigmas of the Earth. If you are planning to go on a Nazca tour, in this guide we will tell you the Nazca Lines history, its construction and the different theories that explain its meaning. Are you ready?

Nazca Lines history

The American anthropologist Paul Kosok was one of the first researchers to formulate a hypothesis about the origin of the Nazca Lines. According to his theory, they were traced by the Nazca civilization, an archaeological culture of ancient Peru that developed in the valleys of the current department of Ica between 300 BC and 600 AD.

Although the shapes can be seen from the nearby hills, Peruvian pilots warned of its presence. In 1929 the Peruvian archaeologist Julio César Tello began to study them, and the same year Paul Kosok began his research. The American anthropologist studied the lines until the 1950s, and was in charge of finding out that they date from 550 AD using the Carbon-14 technique.

His companion, the German Maria Reiche Neumann, was the greatest researcher of the mysterious forms and dedicated her life to their study, conservation and dissemination. Thanks to her work, the Nazca Lines were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.

The Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad was the institution that conducted the first systematic field study. The research, led by archaeologists Markus Reindel and Johny Isla Cuadrado since 1996, has excavated and documented more than 650 sites to analyze the drawings and clarify their meaning.

In 2015, a team of researchers from Yamagata University (Japan) presented the results of their study that demonstrated their origin and also their possible function. According to their theory, the geoglyphs adorned the pilgrimage path to the pre-Inca city of Cahuachi, capital of Nazca culture.

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Nazca Lines meaning

Learn about the history of Nazca Lines

The objective and meaning of the Nazca Lines is one of the great enigmas faced by those who have investigated them. And why would the Nazca people want to trace figures on earth that can only be seen from above? Some consider them simple paths of worship, others believe they are a gigantic calendar, others that it is some kind of ritual to invoke rain. The main theories are summarized below.

Peruvian archaeologist Julio César Tello, the first to study them, described them as a series of “sacred roads”. Later, in 1932, Toribio Mejía Xesspe pointed out that the lines were part of a disappeared cult and that they were just roads with a religious sense.

Paul Kosok’s interpretation was different. The American anthropologist defined them as a great astronomical book, “the world’s largest calendar”. In the same vein, the conclusions of Maria Reiche Neumann indicate that the forms are a gigantic solar and lunar calendar that Peruvian astronomers used to make forecasts about the harvest and the rains.

The researcher thought that the purpose of the Nazca civilization was to aim at the sun and other celestial bodies with their figures, and also relate to the solstice and equinox to set the solar calendar.

The German archaeologist Markus Reindel and the Peruvian Johny Isla presented another theory. According to them, the geoglyphs were traced as part of a ritual of invocation of the rains, because the area lacked sufficient water resources and was punished with long dry seasons.

However, despite all the theories, studies and hypotheses, at present it is still unknown what is the objective and real meaning of the enigmatic Nazca Lines.

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Pseudoarchaeological theories and legends

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are one of the places mentioned by von Daniken, who also includes other great monuments of history, such as the Pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge megalithic stones or Easter island moais. The author explains that the extraterrestrials landed in the Nazca desert and, since they needed long runways, they ordered the natives to build the lines that formed the figures. 

Scholars dismissed this theory as unreasonable: it does not seem logical to think that high-tech aircraft of extraterrestrials need long runways to land and, if so, the intricate spiral-shaped lines of the monkey’s tail or the giant bird’s zigzagging neck do not seem the most conducive place to do so.

With everything you’ve just read, you already know much more about the Nazca Lines theories and history. They are definitely one of those achievements of ancient humans that continue to amaze as the first day. We hope this information has been useful to you. Enjoy your Nazca flight tour and take many photos from the air!

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