Nazca Lines

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Coordinates: 14°43′00″S 75°08′00″W / 14.716667°S 75.133333°W / -14.716667; -75.133333

Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca and Pampas de Jumana*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

This aerial photograph was taken by Maria Reiche, one of the first archaeologists to study the lines, in 1953.
State Party Peru
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, iv
Reference 700
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 1994  (18th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Nazca Lines are a series of geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches more than 80 km (50 miles) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana in Peru. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, these are largely believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 200 BCE and 700 CE. There are hundreds of individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks or orcas, llamas, and lizards.

The lines are shallow designs in the ground where the reddish pebbles that cover the surrounding landscape have been removed, revealing the whitish earth underneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes, and more than seventy are natural or human figures. The largest are over 200 m across. Scholars differ in interpreting what the lines were for but generally ascribe religious significance to them. "The geometric ones could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations include: irrigation schemes, giant astronomical calendars, or landing for spaceships.[1]"

The dry, windless, stable climate of the plateau has preserved the lines to this day, for the most part. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs.


[edit] Construction

One explanation for the method of construction employed by the Nazca people involves the use of simple tools and surveying equipment. Wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines (one of which was found and used to carbon-date all of the figures) support this theory. Researcher Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky has reproduced the figures using the technology available to the Nazca people of the time and without aerial assistance. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of individuals could recreate even the largest figures within days.[2]

The lines were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert. When the gravel is removed, the lines contrast sharply with the light-colored earth beneath. There are several hundred simple lines and geometric patterns on the Nazca plateau, as well as over seventy curvilinear animal and human figures. The area encompassing the lines is nearly 500 square kilometers (193 square miles), and the largest figures can be nearly 270 m long (886 feet). The lines persist due to the extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region. The Nazca desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature around 25°C (77°F) all year round, and the lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered to the present day.

Nazca Lines seen from Spot Satellite

[edit] Purpose

Satellite picture of an area containing lines. (Coordinates: 14°43′S 75°08′W / 14.717°S 75.133°W / -14.717; -75.133)

One theory of the purpose of the lines is that the Nazca people's motivations were religious and that the images were constructed so that gods in the sky could see them. Kosok and Reiche advanced one of the earliest reasons given for the Nazca Lines: that they were intended to point to the places on the distant horizon where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set. This hypothesis was evaluated by two different experts in archaeoastronomy, Gerald Hawkins and Anthony Aveni, and they both concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support an astronomical explanation.

In 1985, the archaeologist Johan Reinhard published archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data demonstrating that worship of mountains and other water sources played a dominant role in Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. He presented the theory that the lines and figures can be explained as part of religious practices involving the worship of deities associated with the availability of water and thus the fertility of crops. The lines were interpreted as being primarily used as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be worshiped, and the figures as symbolically representing animals and objects meant to invoke their aid. However, the precise meanings of many of the individual geoglyphs remain unsolved as of 2009.

Henri Stierlin, in his 1983 book [3], linked the Nazca Lines to the ancient textiles found wrapping mummies of the Paracas culture. The lines and trapezes may have been used as giant, primitive looms allowing for the fabrication of the extremely long strings and wide pieces of textile that are typical of the area. In this theory, the figurative patterns (smaller and less common) have only ritualistic purposes.

Some, such as Jim Woodmann, have proposed that the Nazca Lines presuppose some form of manned flight in order to see the figures properly and that a hot air balloon was the only possible available technology. Woodmann actually made a hot air balloon using materials and techniques that he believed would have been available to people at the time, in order to test this hypothesis. The balloon flew, after a fashion, but there is no evidence in support of Nazca-era hot air balloons, [4] and Woodman's work has been rebutted.[2]

[edit] Environmental concerns

According to Viktoria Nikitzki of the Maria Reiche Centre, an organization dedicated to protecting the Nazca Lines, pollution and erosion caused by deforestation threaten the continued existence of the lines. She is quoted as saying "The Lines themselves are superficial, they are only 10 to 30 cm deep and could be washed away... Nazca has only ever received a small amount of rain. But now there are great changes to the weather all over the world. The Lines cannot resist heavy rain without being damaged."[5] Mario Olaechea Aquije, the archaeological resident from Peru's National Institute of Culture in Nazca, Peru, and a team of specialists surveyed the area after the flooding and mudslides occurring in the area in mid-February 2007. He announced that "the mudslides and heavy rains did not appear to have caused any significant damage to the Nazca Lines," but that the nearby Southern Pan-American Highway did suffer damage, and "the damage done to the roads should serve as a reminder to just how fragile these figures are."[6]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Aveni, Anthony F. (ed.) (1990). The Lines of Nazca. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. ISBN 0-87169-183-3
  • Aveni, Anthony F. (2000). Between the Lines: The Mystery of the Giant Ground Drawings of Ancient Nasca, Peru . Austin Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70496-8
  • Haughton, Brian. (2007). Hidden History: Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge, and Ancient Mysteries. Career Press. ISBN 1564148971
  • Lambers, Karsten (2006). The Geoglyphs of Palpa, Peru: Documentation, Analysis, and Interpretation. Lindensoft Verlag, Aichwald/Germany. ISBN 3-929290-32-4
  • Reinhard, Johan (1996) (6th ed.) The Nazca Lines: A New Perspective on their Origin and Meaning. Lima: Los Pinos. ISBN 84-89291-17-9
  • Stierlin, Henri (1983). La Clé du Mystère. Paris: Albin Michel. ISBN: 2226018646

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Brown, Cynthia Stokes (2007). Big History. New York: The New Press. pp. 167. ISBN 978-1-59558-196-9. 
  2. ^ a b Grounding the Nasca Balloon by Katherine Reece
  3. ^ Stierlin (1983)
  4. ^ Haughton (2007)
  5. ^ Meghji, Shafik. " Flooding and tourism threaten Peru's mysterious Nazca Lines", The Independent, July 17, 2004. Accessed April 02, 2007.
  6. ^ Living in Peru. "Peru: Nazca Lines escape mudslides", Living in Peru, February 20, 2007. Accessed April 02, 2007.

[edit] External links

Nazca lines at the Open Directory Project

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