What the heck are the Nazca Lines?

What the heck are the Nazca Lines?

Lines? Sounds boring. DON’T FALL ASLEEP!

These lines are cool. Why, you ask?

Because they were carved into the earth’s surface almost 2,000 years ago over 500 square kilometres of land in Peru, is why.

The lines were etched by the ancient Nazca people (and perhaps some of their predecessors) who lived in what is now called the Nazca Dessert in southern Peru. They depict over 300 lines, shapes and figures like a spider, a whale, a flower, cactus, dog and a tree. Imagery etched into the earth like this are called geoglyphs.

Apparently, the Nazca people were able to engrave the geoglyphs into the surface by removing 12-15 inches of reddish, oxidized surface rock, revealing a lighter rock beneath. Most of the shapes were created between 200 and 700 A.D, but since this area of the Peruvian desert is so arid, the lines have not been damaged by rain and have largely retained their shape and definition.

This is really amazing when you think about it. Obviously this long ago there were no aerial photographers, satellites circling the earth taking pictures, or remote-operated drones taking photos of the figures as they were being created or when they were finished. The Nazca people, and their ancestors dug these lines and shapes without EVER being able to see them from above in their completed form, as it seems they were intended to be seen.

Nazca monkey geoglyph
The Monkey

This doesn’t just take dedication, it takes some ingenuity and planning to etch a monkey the size of three and a half football fields (football was invented later-I’ll tell you about it another time) into the ground using only rudimentary tools.

So why the heck are they there?

Yes, they look cool, and for me, that’s a good enough reason they exist, but according to many contemporary researchers, they were the site of the Nazca’s rituals, rituals whose purpose was in many cases to summon rain. Considering the desert climate, the Nazcas were pulling out all the stops to try and get a little of that blue gold to rain down from the heavens, and perhaps the images were to make their case and appease the gods in some way. Based on information from this and other ancient Peruvian cultures, spiders were considered to be a sign of rain, so carving a 150 foot spider viewed in its entirety only from the sky is a not-so-subtle way of hinting (i.e. begging) for rain.

Nazca spider geoglyph
The Spider

Although the lines are mentioned in records of the area in the 1500’s as trail markers, in the 1920’s Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe (coolest name ever by the way) was one of the first to really study them contemporarily, and with the use of planes a decade or so later, they could finally be seen and appreciated from above, in all their glory.

Some of the earlier researchers into the Nazca lines thought perhaps they were some type of map of the stars, but contemporary minds have ultimately abandoned this theory because the geoglyphs don’t seem to indicate or map anything celestial after more in-depth analysis.

My favorite theory is that aliens were somehow involved—that the lines may have been created by aliens, or were communication to aliens that had visited the Nazca people. One particular geoglyph does look very alien-like (or maybe like a human waving at an alien) and is known as the “Astronaut”. This theory is disregarded by the majority of historians today, but for those who ponder whether we’re alone in the universe, its fun to imagine we get alien visitors every once in a while who leave their mark.

Nazca human-like geoglyph
The Astronaut

Geoglyphs continue to be discovered as the area is explored, including a recent feline geoglyph on the side of a hill in October 2019.

Although there are many theories about the lines, we can’t get an explanation from anyone who was there, so all we can do is presume their purpose and enjoy their beauty.

Like many other traces left by ancient civilizations, the mystery surrounding the Nazca lines leaves the door open to many intriguing possibilities, and hopefully future discoveries will provide more insight.

For now, let’s just assume aliens made them.

Just kidding…


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