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The Nazca Lines are a group of very large geoglyphs (large designs produced on the ground and formed by clastic rocks, stones, gravel, etc). These geoglyphs are etched into a roughly 200 square mile stretch of the desert created by the pre-Inca people. There are almost 143 geoglyphs added to the over 1,000 ancient designs. Among those, there are almost 800 straight lines, over 300 are geometric designs and more than 70 are zoomorphic designs (man-made shapes that possess the forms of an animal) like a hummingbird, spider, monkey, trees, dog, lizard, and human. Nazca lines were designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. Nazca lines are best seen from the sky(~1,500ft), surrounding foothills and other high places.


Nazca lines were made around 500 BCE and 500 CE. An anthropologist believes that Nazca lines were traced by the Chavin and Paracas cultures. The first published mention of Nazca lines was by Pedro Ciezo da Leon in his book of 1553 and he described them as trail markers. The travelers who came across Nazca lines thought they were the remains of roads from a bygone civilization. In 1927, a Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe happened to come across these Nazca lines when he is making his way up a series of nearby hills.


 Nazca lines were first reported in the 20th century by Peruvian military and civilian pilots. Paul Kosok, an American historian from Long Island University in New York, is imputed as the first scholar to study the Nazca lines in depth. During the study of the ancient irrigation system, he flew over the lines and realized that one was in the shape of a bird. He was accompanied by archaeologist Richard P.Schaedel from the United States and a German mathematician named Maria Reiche and archaeologist from lima, to determine the purpose of Nazca lines.


  • Figures were designed as astronomical markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose on significant days.
  • Nazca people could have used simple tools to trace these lines.
  • Surveys have established wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines. One such stake was carbon-dated and was the foundation for establishing the age of the design complex. 
  • Some lines converged over the horizon.
  • Walking across any one of the lines reaches to places like Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids.


  • One hypothesis is that the Nazca people created them to be seen by the deities in the sky.
  • Lines and figures were part of the religious practices connected with the availability of water, the productivity of crops, etc.
  • Some people claim that Nazca lines were drawn to draw the attention of aliens in the space.
  • Some people claim that Nazca lines were drawn by the aliens.
  • There are many interpretations of the designs, but in general, they ascribe religious significance to them.
  • Proposals of the Nazca lines vary from astronomical maps connected to agricultural calendars to measure the sacred routes between Nazca religious sites.
  • People believe that Nazca lines are linked to the heavens with some of them representing constellations in the sky.


Most of the lines are created on the ground by a shallow trench with a depth between 10 and 15cm. Such trenches were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert. The largest shape of the line is about 370m long. The lines remain naturally due to the isolation and the dry, windless, and stable climate of the plateau. Rare changes in the weather might alter the designs temporarily. These figures differ in complexity. 


  • The climate of the Nazca region is such that there is no erosion. The region almost sees no rainfall and wind throughout the year. Perhaps this could be the reason for the preserved Nazca lines.   
  • The Nazca lines are mentioned in the book “Chariots of the god” by Erich Von Daniken that displays his belief that the Nazca lines are created by aliens and are used as landing strips.
  • The region where Nazca lines are located is a rich source of nitrates.
  • Nazca lines are best seen from hilltop areas. It’s almost impossible to figure Nazca lines from the ground.
  • The meaning of many Nazca figures is still unknown and is a mystery.

By Niharika Goulikar, Manchirevula,Hyderabad


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