Peru’s Mysterious Nazca Lines

The Nazca Desert is located roughly 280 miles south of Lima, penned in by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the foothills of the Andes to the east. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it looks much the same as any other arid area along this stretch of the Peruvian coast. In fact, until less than a hundred years ago, even the local people had forgotten its significance. And then the aeroplane was invented…

Early pilots began telling tales of strange lines criss-crossing the desert in the area. Some of them had been mistaken for trails by the Spanish back in the 1500s. But its only when seen from the air that the true extent of these lines becomes apparent.

Which sounds like a great excuse to go flying to me!

Into 1 JTo date over a thousand ‘lines’ have been identified.

Lines on the Nazca Desert (you can also see the Whale if you look carefully)

In addition, there are numerous geometrical shapes, such as triangles and trapezoids.

Lines and Trapezoids everywhere!

Trapezoids 3 J

Lines and Trapezoids crossing the natural landscape

Lines and Trapezoids crossing the natural landscape

Beneath our right wingtip... yet more Lines and Trapezoids

Beneath our right wingtip… yet more Lines and Trapezoids

A giant spiral

A giant spiral

The Nazca Lines also include over 70 representations of manmade objects, animals and plants.

Couldn't see the whale before? How about now?

Couldn’t see the whale before? How about now?

Me over the Whale

Me over the Whale

Technically, the Nazca Lines are ‘geoglyphs’, large artificial designs on the surface of the Earth.

The Monkey is one of the best-known designs

The Monkey is one of the best-known designs

Slightly closer look at the Monkey

Slightly closer look at the Monkey

Most of the lines were produced by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 500 AD, although archaeologists believe some date as far back as 500 BC. The majority were created by scraping away the dark-stained desert surface to a depth of about 8-12 inches, to reveal the lighter-coloured rock beneath.

In places 'newer' lines and designs overrode older ones

In places ‘newer’ lines and designs overrode older ones

Although exceptionally delicate, environmentally speaking, the Nazca Lines have survived so long thanks to the extremely arid conditions that characterise this area of Peru. It’s no overstatement to say it hardly ever rains here. If it did, the lines would have been washed away centuries ago.

If you look carefully you can just about make out the Flamingo (body to the right and zigzag neck to the left) - sorry for the poor quality of some of these images, but Rich's proper camera was stolen earlier in the trip

If you look carefully you can just about make out the Flamingo (body to the right and zigzag neck to the left)
– sorry for the poor quality of some of these images, but Rich’s proper camera was stolen earlier in the trip

A slightly fuzzy image of the Dog (which is upside-down from this angle)

A slightly fuzzy image of the Dog (which is upside-down from this angle)

Of course, the main questions asked about the enigmatic Nazca Lines is why a pre-historic culture would go to such extremes to create enormous designs only visible from the air? Our guide in Lima, Vanessa, told us that somewhere between 20 and 30 different theories have been proposed over the years.

This lookout tower is only way to see any of the geoglyphs from the ground

This lookout tower is the only way to see any of the geoglyphs from the ground

The Tree (left) and Hands (right)

The Tree (left) and Hands (right)

Some scientists have suggested the Nazca Lines represent a huge calendar, although recent studies have shown that only some of the lines relate to astronomical features.

A Parrot

A Parrot

Several of the more plausible theories relate to water, a crucial resource in the desert. It’s been demonstrated that many of the lines point towards valleys and other water sources.

A fertile valley in the desert slightly north of Nazca

A fertile valley in the desert slightly north of Nazca

Lines pointing east towards the Andes

Lines pointing east towards the Andes

More fancifully, some people believe that the lines and images were influenced by spacemen!

The Owl Man or Astronaut is over 50 feet tall

The Owl Man or Astronaut is over 50 feet tall

Unlike most of the geoglyphs at Nazca, the Owl Man is on the side of a hill, and so thought to represent as earlier phase

Unlike most of the geoglyphs at Nazca, the Owl Man is on the side of a hill, and so thought to represent an earlier phase

Or perhaps the Nazca people were just sending messages to their gods.

The Condor

The Condor

Whatever their purpose, and whether or not we ever discover it, the Nazca Lines are truly remarkable. They represent the World’s largest and most diverse collection of prehistoric geoglyphs. Unsurprisingly, UNESCO declared an area covering approximately 175 square miles a World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Spider is about 150 feet long... ugh!

The Spider is about 150 feet long… ugh!

This post was inspired by the photo theme Intricate from Krista (of the Daily Post) and, given we’re in a desert, also by the themes Arid from Sue (of A Word In Your Ear) and Sun from Jennifer Nichole Wells.

Perhaps the most famous of the Nazca designs, the Hummingbird

Perhaps the most famous of the Nazca designs, the Hummingbird

Our awe-inspiring day, which began with an incredible boat ride out to the Ballestas Islands, Peru’s answer to the Galapagos, was arranged with the help of our friends at Adios Adventure Travel.

Me over the Hummingbird

Me over the Hummingbird

If you’re like me and are fascinated by the Nazca Lines and such things, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
This entry was posted in Adventure, Environment, History, Jaspa's Journey, South America, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Peru’s Mysterious Nazca Lines

  1. Angeline M says:

    Those are incredible! I like the spiral the best and think that must have been the most difficult to make. Great post.

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  3. Debbie says:

    Amazing to have been able to see them from a bird’s eye view.

  4. Tanzalongs says:

    Amazing! How could they have worked out the patterns so accurately with no external view point?

    • Jaspa says:

      One theory is they drew the images on a small grid and then made the full-sized versions using larger grid, but I’ve no idea if that’s true.

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  6. Sue Slaght says:

    It’s a fascinating post and must be incredible to see! We are headed to Peru in about 5 weeks to do some cycling and hiking. Did you have any issues with the altitude?

    • Jaspa says:

      Oh, I’m very jealous! (Which I know is rich, considering I just spent over 3 weeks in South America!)

      To be honest, we didn’t get to altitude in Peru. And although we did get up into the Andes in Chile (including the Aconcagua Valley beneath the highest peak in all the Americas), we retuned to the more reasonable altitudes of Santiago each evening.

  7. These are so intriguing. I’d never heard of the Nazca lines before. So glad I have now.

  8. cyardin says:

    Awesome! Very jealous of this little flight.

  9. So very cool! I think I will have to do some speculating of my own as to how the lines got there.

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