The Nazca lines are a series of large, ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca desert in Southern Peru. There are hundreds of them ranging in size and in depiction. They range from simple lines and basic shapes, all the way to large depictions of monkeys, hummingbirds, and many other plants and animals. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1200 feet in length. These magnificent designs are unmatched in sheer scale and precision by any other goeglyphs in the world.
The lines are widely believed to have been created by the Nazca people, who lived and flourished in that area from around A.D. 1 to 700. The lines were created by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image on the desert floor. Due to the difference in color of the top and lower layers of the desert floor, the lines are easily seen and very noticeable. The climate in the area is extremely favorable for the lines, and because of the extremely small amount of rainfall and wind in the area, the lines can stay and be relatively untouched for thousands of years.
The Nazca Civilization
The Nazca people lived in a series of Cheifdoms amid the coastal plains of Southern Peru. They were most well known for their distinctive pottery and textiles, as well as their famous geoglyphs. They were heavily influenced by the civilization that proceeded them, the Paracas. They flourished in the region for about 700 years until their eventual downfall at around 750 AD. The main cause for their downfall is believed to have been due to ecological reasons from cutting down trees and a large flood in the area. They were also known to have been heavily effected by droughts that were extremely common in the region where they presided. Due to the constant droughts and their seemingly constant need for more water, water ended up becoming a very important part of their religion and culture effecting their pottery, religious beliefs, and the use of the Nazca lines.
The lines were first systematically studied in 1926 by a Peruvian archaeologist by the name of Toribio Meija Xesspe. He first spotted the lines while he was hiking and then began to write about them and show them to the scientific world. He stated that he believed that they were "seques" or sacred roads. But, due to the fact that they were carved into the desert floor, the lines were almost impossible to study and investigate from the ground. But, after humans took to the sky, the lines began receiving much more public awareness and recognition after being consistently spotted by pilots flying commercial planes over the region in the 1930’s. After the recognition began, people from all over the world began to study the lines and theorize about their significance and purposes. The first main theories were that the lines had significant astronomical and calendrical purposes.
Scientific Based Theories
Although there is still not a definitive answer today, there are a few theories that many experts believe could explain the purpose that the Nazca lines served. The first theory is that they were for astronomical purposes. Maria Reiche, a german mathematician and archaeologist who was famous for researching the Nazca Lines, believed that the lines were a large astronomical calendar. She believed that the lines showed the direction of the rising of important stars and planetary events like sun solstices. She worked closely under an American Professor named Paul Kosok. Together they studied and theorized about the lines for years. After Paul Kosok arrived in the area to study their connection with ancient irrigation systems, he quickly disproved that connection and began studying their lines and their potential connections. Together, after studying them, they eventually labelled them as “the largest astronomy book in the world”. The astronomical theory was extremely popular for a while, but has been largely disproved recently as more experts have studied the lines. Dr.Gerald Hawkins went to the lines to study their astronomical connections with a computer program. After studying the lines, he stated that there was only a twenty percent connection between the lines and any astronomical orientation, which he said was low enough to just have been by pure chance. Today, the most popular and widespread belief is that the lines were not related to anything astronomical, but were used more for religious and ceremonial purposes. The most widely accepted belief is their ties to religious and ceremonial processions that mainly focused on water. Due to the areas constant struggles with droughts, water was always something that was extremely important to the Nazcan people. The lines were not roads leading to water necessarily, they were just used as pathways leading them to areas where they would pray and make sacrifices to the gods asking for water. The Nazcans were believed to have walked along the lines in a sort of ceremonial procession that led to sacred areas where the Nazcan people would pray to various gods involving water and agriculture.
Because no one has an exact answer or explanation for the lines, there are countless other theories that have been developed that range from religious and astronomical reasons all the way to alien interactions.
One theory that was developed was that the Nazcan people actually did have a way to view these geoglyphs. Jim Woodman theorized that the Nazcan population was so advanced that they created hot air balloons that they used to view their geoglyphs. He even went as far as to create his own hot air balloon using materials that they would have possessed in an attempt to prove his theory. However, although he did somewhat succeed in his attempt to recreate the balloon, there is no scientific evidence to prove that balloons were ever used.The most common Pseudoarcheological explanation used when it comes to the Nazca lines is their connection to alien interaction with the Nazca population. The most commonly used and believed Psuedoarcheological theory is that the lines were used to make contact with alien species and as runways for their ships. The theory states that the lines were made as large as possible so that they could be seen by aliens in space. It also states that the length of the lines was due to the fact that they were used as runways and landing strips for all of the alien ships making contact with the Nazcan people. The theory was first introduced to the mainstream in 1968 by Swiss author Erik von Daniken in his book, Chariots of the gods. He proposed that aliens landed in the Nazca desert way back when humans were supposed to be evolving from primative beings. The many lines in the desert were gouged by the landing spacecrafts of the alien beings.
Recently, the Nazca lines have garnered large amounts of attention from all around the world thanks to a website by the name of gaia.com. On June 20, 2017 the website released footage of what appeared to be a three fingered alien mummy that they claimed was discovered in a tomb outside of Nazca. They released the footage under the headline “New Alien Mummy Discovered in Peru Near Nazca Lines”. The footage was followed by a large reaction from people all over the world. It spurred massive online debates between pseudo-scientists claiming its legitimacy and countless people questioning the look of the mummy and whether it was real or not. After weeks of debate, it was released that DNA tests revealed that the bodies found were 100 percent human DNA. The release spurred outrage from large amounts of people across the scientific community who believed that the remains had been created to look like aliens using the "grave-robbed" mummified remains of anciently-buried humans.
Although there is a large following and support of the Psuedoarcheological claims made by Erik Von Danniken and other so called experts, there is even more legit scientific data that easily disproves all of it.
It is a near consensus within the scientific community that the landing strip theory, while it is an intriguing one, is scientifically impossible. Any scientist or researcher with an understanding of the terrain and the design of the lines will quickly state that the landing strips theory has no scientific backing. The terrain alone would be nearly impossible to land on, and even if that was possible, the displacement of the sand created when the aircrafts makes contact with the ground, would effectively erase the lines completely. Although there have been many ways in which scientists as well as regular citizens alike have debunked the other ancient theories, in 1983, Dr.Joe Nickell was able to debunk almost all theories in one clean swoop. With three cousins and his eleven year old nephew, he set out to create his own recreation of a geoglyph using materials that the Nazcan people would have possessed. Based on the fact that wooden stakes had been found at the site dating back to A.D. 525, Dr.Nickell used a theory created by a devoted researcher of the Nazca lines, Maria Reiche. She stated in 1978 that she believed the Nazca people would make smaller preliminary drawings in the sand to help map out what their final products would look like. After creating the preliminary drawings they would use stakes and ropes to make a carefully plotted grid which they would use to create the geoglyph. Although, he did not use that exact grid system, he did use the stakes and ropes to help map out his design. After 9 hours of carefully plotting and measuring, Dr.Nickell and his colleagues were able to make a near perfect replica of a 440 foot condor that is displayed in the Nazca desert. After proving that the creating the drawings would have been totally plausible for the Nazcan people, he debunked the theory that the drawings could only be seen from the air. He stated that the smaller figures, such as an 80 foot fish for example, were easily seen from the ground. He also stated that large portions of the significantly larger drawings were even viewable without needing to be in a plane or aircraft. To prove this, he brought a wildlife biologist to the recreation that he had made in the sand. Upon viewing the figure, the biologist was easily able to identify the drawing as a Nazca bird, without any knowledge of the experiment. Afterwards, he released a statement that summed up all of his research and evidence:
“In summary, we do know that it was the Nazcas who produced the drawings. While their large size does suggest the possibility that they were meant to be viewed from above, as by the Indian gods, the figures can be recognized, at least to some extent, from the ground. The drawings could have been produced by a simple method requiring only materials available to South American Indians centuries ago. The Nazcas probably used a simplified form of this method, with perhaps a significant amount of the work being done freehand. There is no evidence that extraterrestrials were involved: but if they were, we can only conclude that they seem to have used sticks and cord just as the Indians did.”