Building mammoth pyramids and beating slaves to pulp in order for your tomb to look pretty has some sort of macabre purpose…….scratching kilometres of geometric shapes, plants and animal figures in a desert is somewhat bizarre and leaves everyone thinking why and for what end-goal. The mystery of the Nasca lines remains the worlds biggest arcehological enigma.
Covering an area of 600 square kilometres the Nasca lines are engraved across vast and dry desert plains and mountains. They are a complex of geometric line drawings and sketches of animals and plants species.
To give you an idea of size;
-the longest line is 10km across the desert floor
– the largest creature sketch is 280m long
– the narrowest line is 30cm wide while the broadest is 7m
– most lines are about 30cm deep
-most of the figures are one continuous line
In the mid 1920s commercial airline pilots noticed strange patterns on the desert floor. Closer inspection with smaller crop sprayer type planes revealed these remarkable drawings. So huge and extensive, the real understanding of the Nasca lines can only really be made from the air – imagine looking at an etched out figure 200m long from ground level? Doesn’t work!
How to date them; desert has no carbon…..but sticks found along the lines, presumably from ‘ceremonial’ events carbon-date back to 200BC! This only means that people were present, not necessarily the architects. Some theorists say they are alien!
Purpose; what’s the point of etching a giant monkey into the desert floor? By the way, there are no monkeys in the desert – interpretation, the people who made the drawings must have come in contact with traders or travellers from other regions – ? Maybe the amazon?
Stellar patterns – can only account for 30% of the lines and this is pushing the imagination!
Water sources; obviously vitally important for desert people, maybe these lines point to water? The local water supply in Nasca town is from sub-terranean channels coursing down from the Andes. Did the lines point to ancient rivers or sub-terranean sources?
How are they made; this region of the desert is unique in its soil substrate. It’s not just sand but constitutes a millennia old mud floodplain. The surface is covered with dark stones and about 30cm below the surface, the texture changes completely to a more pale, desert-sand type texture and colouring. So when you displace the top layer, the cleared area below contrasts vividly with the dark top layer and due to the arid nature of the desert, no rain washes it away. Regular winds keep loose sand off the lines.
2 techniques: literally sweeping the desert floor clear of the top layer of stone and secondly, scraping a slightly deeper channel into the floor.
What struck us most, was the fact that the lines were so narrow!
People mostly come to Nasca simply to fly over the lines. In a little 4 seater Cesna with 2 pilots we did just this and were gob-smacked at what we saw from the air. Enormous pictures of animals and plants crisply identifiable, without the need for an active imagination, from above!!