top of page

Nazca Lines: Mysterious Geometrical Lines in Peru is One of the Oldest Unsolved Mysteries of World

Whether it's a beach or a desert, we all might have drawn our names on the sand, But who had drawn these giant Nazca lines in Peru? Read to find out more.

About 250 miles south of Lima, Peru, and not far off from the shores of the Pacific Ocean, lies a great arid plane depicts one of the oldest mysteries of the world. The legendry Nazca Lines, stretching nearly 200 square miles, is a collection of giant geoglyphs consisting of motifs and designs etched on the ground.

Scholars exploring the patterns states that these were created by the ancient Nazca culture of South America, depicting various flora, fauna, and beautifully designed geometrical shapes.

The 2000 years old lines can only be appreciated when they are viewed from the air given their massive size. Despite being studied for more than 80 years, the geoglyphs were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 are still a mystery to the curious researchers.

What is Nazca Lines?

One can distinguish three basic types of Nazca lines: straight lines, geometric designs, and pictorial representations. You will find more than 800 straight lines along the coastal plain, some of them extending up to 30 miles in length.

There are 300 geometric designs and include basic shapes: triangles, trapezoids, and rectangles, along with some artistic lines: spirals, wavy lines, and zigzags. Some of the lines represent about 70 species of animals and plants measuring up to 1200 feet long such as spider, spider, hummingbird, cactus plant, monkey, whale, llama, duck, flower, tree, lizard and dog.

Humanoid figurines are also present among them, which the Nazca people nicknamed "The Astronaut," having hands and some unidentifiable depictions. According to the anthropologists, the Nazca culture began at around 100 B.C.

It flourished from A.D. 1 to 700, creating the majority of the lines. Other cultures such as Chavin and Paracas predated the Nazca are considered to have created some of the geoglyphs.

The Nazca lines are located in the desert plains of the Rio Grande de Nasca river basin. An archaeological site spanning over 75,000 hectares is one of the driest places on the planet.

Nazca Lines Revealed

In the 1500s, several curious travelers dared to stump on them and explained these lines as remnants of roads that were vast and complicated from a bygone civilization. However, the truth about these geoglyphs came out in 1927 when a Peruvian archaeologist, Toribio Mejia Xesspe, was exploring a series of nearby hills and looked down on the furrows in the valley below.

He instantly realized that these desert grooves are not the ruins of ancient roads, rather they were a set of massive images, symbols carved onto the earth. He stated that they were so massive that they could never be recognized from the ground level.

Later in 2011, a Japanese team of researchers discovered some new geoglyphs that appeared representing a scene of decapitation measuring about 4.2 meters long and 3.1 meters wide, which is far smaller compared to the other Nazca figures and cannot be seen from aerial surveys.

The Nazca people were known to collect trophy heads, and research conducted in 2009 revealed that most trophy skulls came from the same populations as the people were buried with rather than outside cultures.

In 2016, another geoglyph was discovered by the same team that depicted a 98-feet long mythical creature with numerous legs, spotted markings, and tongue sticking out.

Again in 2018, Peruvian archaeologists announced discovering more than 50 geoglyphs in the same region with the help of modern technology using a drone, thereby marking the landmarks in unprecedented details. A layer of iron oxide-coated pebbles having a deep rust color covers the desert floor.

The ancient peoples created their designs after removal of the top of the rock measuring around 12 to 15 inches. This revealed the lighter color of the sand below. They began creating with soft-scale models and carefully increased the proportions of the models to create larger and more complex designs.

Interesting Theories

Eminent scholars such as Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche studied the lines. They hypothesized them to be a part of the major calendar. In their views, the furrows are indications of the places on the horizon where the sun and moon rises and sets on some important holidays.

However, more recent research suggests that the purpose of the Nazca lines were related to water, a valuable commodity in the arid lands of the Peruvian coastal plain. The geoglyphs were not used for the purpose of irrigation or a guide in finding water; rather, it was a part of a ritual the gods, which was in actual effort to bring more rain.

Although some scholars have raised safety concerns about the geoglyphs, the Nazca Lines, compared to the other relics found throughout the world, are largely spared from unintentional destruction due to their location. However, in 2009 the Nazca Lines suffered the first recorded instance of rain damage.

Heavy downpour flowing off the Pan American Highway, a network of roads connecting all the countries of the Americas started to deposit sand and clay onto the three fingers of the hand-shaped geoglyph.

Five years later, Greenpeace's environmental group damaged an area near the hummingbird geoglyph while casting a media stunt, disturbing the upper layer of rocks by the hummingbird when they trampled through the forbidden area of the desert.

Again, last year, a commercial truck drove onto a portion of the lines, etching deep scars approximately 100 feet by 330 feet, for which the driver was arrested. The authority took special care for greater security and surveillance at the sites.

Enroute to Nazca Lines

You can reach to see the Nazca Lines by traveling by bus from Lima (7 hours journey) or Arequipa (8 hours journey). Several flights are available and are arranged by local tour agencies.

Alternatively, you can also take any collective or bus heading north to get to the Mirador viewing tower 20 km north of town. The best flights over the lines are available before noon, after which the wind starts to pick up and would make your flight bumpy.

It is the best time if you are curious enough to understand the geoglyphs of the Peruvian desert. Pack your bags and head for quenching your thirst for curiosity.

SIGN UP to get such articles directly into your inbox.


Be the First to Expand Your
Intellectual Horizon!

bottom of page