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!
In addition, there are numerous geometrical shapes, such as triangles and trapezoids.
The Nazca Lines also include over 70 representations of manmade objects, animals and plants.
Technically, the Nazca Lines are ‘geoglyphs’, large artificial designs on the surface of the Earth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More fancifully, some people believe that the lines and images were influenced by spacemen!
Or perhaps the Nazca people were just sending messages to their gods.
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.
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.
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.
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!