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Nazca Lines - 500 KM of Geoglyphs

Nazca Lines

Flying over the lowlands of southern Peru, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, pilots spotted, in 1927, figures that appeared to have been drawn on the ground. Nobody initially wanted to believe them, until they bring as proof photos. These images, now known as "Nazca Lines", represent monkeys, birds or mysterious geometric patterns stretching over an area of ​​nearly 500 kilometers.

Stone lines

Thousands of years ago, the rains carried the dark Andean rock towards the plain, on lower ground, where it oxidized with time. About 2,000 years ago, men scratched this dark layer, to unearth the lower layer, ocher, and draw different figures. The dark rocks were then packed to a height of about 1 centimeter to better emphasize the outline of the figures. Viewed from the ground, however, the contrast between the dark rocks and the ocher earth as well as the differences in level are barely visible. It is by taking altitude that the drawings become recognizable.

One of the strangest features of these lines of Nazca is that some of them stretch for several hundred meters in a perfectly straight line. For the German scientist Maria Reiche (1903-1998) who studied these lines from 1946 to her death, these images were first drawn on a smaller scale. Then threads were stretched across the plain to transfer the drawing to the ground and scratch the upper layer perfectly evenly.

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Sketch album, divine worship or landmarks?

Even today, we do not know the reasons that led to the drawing of these lines and figures. According to the most popular theory, these would be landing strips for gods or extraterrestrials. According to Marie Reiche, this work had been executed so that the gods could admire it from their heavenly abode and help the Nazca Indians in agriculture and fishing. A legend also tells that a god creates this infertile plain to punish the men who had angered him. If this legend, certainly, does not speak of an airstrip, it suggests nevertheless that these images are an offering made to this god.

According to another theory, the inhabitants of this plain would have sought to fix on their soil their knowledge in astronomy. This latter assumption, however, is extremely controversial, since in other civilizations that practiced stellar cults, small charts of the sky were generally made easier to handle.

Finally, another theory puts these images in relation to rivers or underground sources that can be identified by these drawings. This assumption, which could account for purely geometric structures, does not, however, explain the representations of animals or human beings.

Moreover, we do not know who were the authors of these figures. As the Peruvian plain is not fertile, it is indeed unlikely that a people has settled there. The locality of Nazca that gave its name to these lines is located only twenty kilometers, but there is no other trace of housing in the pampas. All the Indian tribes known to date seem, in fact, to have avoided this place to settle preferably in the Andes.

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The White Horse…

But Peru is not the only country where we can find such representations. In Oxfordshire, Great Britain, for example, there is a "white horse" near Uffington Castle, on a hill of the same name. This hill is actually a mound of artificial earth, which dates from the Iron Age. The stylized image of the horse was also scratched on the hill, so as to bring out the chalky layer, covered by vegetation. On the ground, the image is difficult to recognize because of its size (110 meters by 37 meters) and the irregularity of the terrain.

Under the action of the wind and the vegetation, the image of the horse gradually deteriorated until it virtually disappeared in the 18th century. In the nineteenth century, the English Heritage organization, specializing in the conservation of historical monuments, undertook to clean the drawing. Since then, the image of the white horse has become so popular that other horse silhouettes have been drawn on the hills of Southern England in the same way.

We do not know the time when this white horse was drawn and we do not know anything about its authors. In the 1990s, it was generally assumed that the drawing was from the Iron Age (circa 800-50 BC), that is, from the same period as Uffington Castle, located nearby. However, a new dating process has provided further evidence that this horse is older and dates back to the Bronze Age (circa 3000-1000 BC). These results, however, contradict the local popular tradition, according to which this drawing was made by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the 5th century.

... and green snakes

In North America too, similar figures are found, however, made by another method. Contrary to what has been done in the Peruvian pampas, these are artificial hills in the shape of animals. Most of these sculptures are located in Wisconsin, but they are also found in Iowa, Illinois and Georgia. Again, the creatures represented are identifiable only from the sky.

Other similar hills may have been the victims of urban expansion. Thus, in 1858, the merchant William Pidgeon, amateur archaeologist and collector of Indian myths, made the story of his travels and his work. These notes contain sketches of hills that no longer exist today. Pidgeon's account also contains information provided by an Indian prophet, De-coo-dah, whom the merchant considered a descendant of the Indian people at the origin of these hills. According to De-coo-dah, these hills would be an alphabet and would have originally served to convey a message to posterity. Asked about the recurrent form of the snake, De-coo-dah would have, in response, told legends in which were mixed myths and astronomical descriptions. Pidgeon concluded that these images probably represented calendars or constellations.

Although rejecting these considerations, scientists have nevertheless searched these hills and established the topographic survey. Nothing, however, allows them today to confirm De-coo-dah's words, so that the mystery of the North American hills, despite new discoveries and numerous publications, remains intact.

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