Desert Designs That Stir the Imagination
Peru’s arid desert coast is the setting for the mysterious, ancient Nazca lines, a series of geometric forms and straight lines in the earth that depict stylized human and animal shapes. Covering an astounding 193 miles, they can be fully appreciated only from the air. Some are simple, perfectly formed triangles, trapezoids, or straight lines running for miles across the desert; others represent giant animals, such as a 540-foot-long lizard, a 270-foot-long monkey with a tightly curled tail, or a condor with a 390-foot wingspan. The geoglyphs are faithful to the shapes and figures found on Nazcan textiles and ceramics. It is believed that the lines were “etched” – by removing rocks and topsoil to reveal the lighter soil underneath – between 2,000 and 3,000 (some archaeologists say even 5,000) years ago.
Who constructed these lines and why? And how, if they can be discerned only from high above? Far-fetched theories explain them as extraterrestrial landing sites (as speculated in Erich von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods), astronomical calendars used for agricultural purposes, or land art that held secret messages for the gods who looked down at them. So far, this extraordinary pre-Inca cultural artifact remains veiled in mystery.