Machu Picchu Travel

Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines

Right at the heart of the dry Peruvian desert lies an incredible mystery that remained hidden in these vast lands for many years. The Nazca Lines are one of the wonders of the ancient world and still one of the greatest riddles yet to be solved in Peru.

You surely have heard of these gigantic geoglyphs located at the Nazca pampas though their real purpose is left to speculation since the information gathered about the site is little in comparison to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Nazca Lines were studied for over 80 years and as far as we knew, research was still ongoing by international and national organizations. There are over 1,000 lines that look to depict different objects, humans, animals, plants, and other geometrical figures.

According to archeologists, the lines are over 2,000 years old and are traced back to the ancient Nazca culture, an important civilization that ruled these lands. However, it is uncertain to know whether these figures were traced to honor their gods or for ceremonial purposes. 

However, the mystery doesn’t stop there since the Nazca Lines were open to the craziest theories, where “portals to other dimensions” and “extraterrestrial spacecraft” look to find a meaning to these ancient figures.

In this blog, we’ll decode a few of the most mind-blowing theories about the Nazca Lines, as well as give you a major insight into the history and potential purpose of these 2,000-year-old geoglyphs.

Discovery of the Nazca Lines

As you may know, these enormous figures can only be fully appreciated from high above the clouds, which is why it wasn’t until Peruvian pilots reported them during their flights. 

However, the first person to acknowledge their existence was Pedro Cieza de Leon in 1547, who said that had encountered “some signs in the vast Nazca desert” though the report wasn’t taken into consideration and was later forgotten.

As the pilot reports resonated among historians and archeologists, Julio C. Tello, an important Peruvian archeologist carried out investigations on the site in 1929. In that same year, Paul Kosok, a North American anthropologist, also began to study these lines and was the one who traced them back to 550 A.D. 

Paul Kosok wasn’t alone in this project since the renowned Maria Reiche Neumann accompanied him along the way. Paul Kosok left the project in the 50s and Maria Reiche continued the work, she was the major researcher of the Nazca Lines.

Maria Reiche dedicated a great part of her life to the study, conservation, and awareness of these ancient relics. Thanks to her hard work, the Nazca lines were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. 

Recent Studies: 143 New Nazca Lines Discovered

The Yamagata University in Japan has been carrying out on-site investigations in the Nazca pamas since 2004. The team of scientists led by Masato Sakai discovered 143 new geoglyphs through fieldwork and analyzing high-resolution 3D data using IBM’s Artificial Intelligence Technology.

Apparently, these recently discovered lines date back to at least 100 B.C. and 300 A.D. The new figures vary in size and were categorized into two groups: 

- Type A. These are the largest lines on the site, reaching over 100 meters. These geoglyphs were traced back to the early Nazca culture period.
- Type B. Comprehends the smallest figures in the pampas, reaching less than 50 meters. The smallest of this group expanded to 5 meters and depicts a humanoid geoglyph holding a cane.

The research uncovered different figures that depict humanoids, animals, and abstract objects. They also identified smashed pottery, leading them to believe that these lines could have been used for rituals and ceremonies.

Meaning of the Nazca Lines: Theories and Assumptions

Ok, here’s the tricky part, there are hundreds of hypotheses about what the Nazca Lines could have served for. Therefore, we have no definitive theory about these ancient geoglyphs, which is why some of them may sound historical and archaeological correct while others… don’t. Here you’ll see for yourself:

1. Maria Reiche. The famous German-born Peruvian mathematician stated that the carvings represented an astronomical calendar, where each figure would represent an event or a group of stars. 

2. Robin Edgar. This independent researcher and self-styled astronomer maintained that the Nazca lines were meant to be seen by the “eye of god” or “eye in the sky” which is seen during total solar eclipses. He held that the figures were a form of communication with gods or even offerings.

3. Johann Reinhard. The American researcher said that the Nazca lines were related to water-cult rituals due to the extreme aridity of the desert, which is why they carved these figures on the ground to implore the gods for rain.

4. Erich Von Däniken. It is one of the wildest theories about the Nazca lines, and honestly, one that has resonated through time, which you probably know about. Erich’s hypothesis holds that the Nazca lines were an ancient landing site for an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

Aliens supposedly imparted the local people with special knowledge and technology before returning to their home planet. For that reason, the ancient astronauts were seen as gods by the Nazca culture and carved these geoglyphs to honor them.

These are a few of the many theories that surround the famous Nazca geoglyphs, some of them may sound very likely to have happened. Unfortunately, aliens or not, the Nazca Lines will remain a mystery until a new lead is found.

How to See the Nazca Lines?

As you may know, the region of Nazca is located 400 km south of Lima, which is why we highly recommend you visit the main attractions on the way to the city before getting there. 

Luckily for you, we have structured the perfect travel itinerary across southern Peru so you don’t miss anything in between during your adventure. Likewise, here we’ll tell you all about the two different ways to see these impressive geoglyphs.

To fully appreciate the Nazca Lines, it’s best to take a flight over the region. That way you’ll get to see the 15 most famous and recognizable figures in the area. The flight over the Nazca lines is one of the most sought-after activities in the Peruvian desert, so make sure to book in advance.

You could also get to see 2 or 3 Nazca Lines (depending on the weather conditions) from a viewing tower located 15 minutes away from the Nazca city. Keep in mind that you would have to organize it on your own since there is no touristic transportation to this location unless arranged beforehand.

Would you like to uncover the mysteries of Peru? Check our travel packages and start planning the trip of your life while you’re here. Our travel specialists can help you organize the best trip itinerary while optimizing your time and experience according to your interests!