If you find yourself roaming around the Peruvian desert on foot, you might not find more than dull rocks and sand. Hop on a plane, however, and you’ll see a series of lines drawn in distinct animal shapes and geometric patterns of a grand scale that will blow your mind. Those distinct strips of white seen from the air are known as the famous Nazca Lines — the subject of numerous studies and over 80 years of trying to uncover their mystery, origin, and meaning.
What Are the Nazca Lines
Found just over 200 miles southeast of the capital of Peru, Lima, the Nazca Lines represent a series of 800 straight lines, 70 animal and plant designs, and 300 geometric figures known as biomorphs and geoglyphs. It is believed that they were created by the Nazca people, whose peak was between one to 700 A.D. Since the Peruvian desert only sees about 20 minutes of rain per year, and in combination with erosion and wind, the exposed designs have remained intact over the last 500 to 2,000 years.
It wasn’t until 1926 that archeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe first began to study the site. And it was only after the advent of flight that people saw the Nazca Lines in their true glory in 1941. American professor Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche (later known as the Lady of the Lines) argued that the lines represented “the largest astronomy book in the world.”
Newer Theories Claim Nazca People Used the Lines for Rituals
The Kosok-Raiche theory held true until the 1970s when Johan Reinhard proposed a different explanation for the glyphs. He believed the Nazca Lines were actually used to perform rituals and ask the gods for more water, given that it was extremely scarce in the region. To back his theory, he also referred to spiral designs used in other ancient Peruvian sites, where animal symbolism was common. For example, the spider is a sign of rain, and monkeys originated in the Amazon, a place abundant in water.
The truth is yet to be discovered, but technology is making it easier to get closer to solving the mystery.