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Desert labyrinth: lines, landscape and meaning at Nazca, Peru

Clive Ruggles1 & Nicholas J. Saunders2


The shapes drawn out by the famous Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert are at their most evident from the airgiving rise to some famously fantastic theories about their origin. The new understanding offered here is the result of a piece of straightforward brilliance on the part of our authors: get down on the ground, where the original users were, and see where your feet lead you. Using stratigraphic and taphonomic reasoning to decide which lines were contemporary, they discover an itinerary so complex they can justify calling it a labyrinth, and see it as serving ceremonial progressions. Keywords: Peru, Nasca, Nazca, rst millennium AD, geoglyphs, landscape

Introduction
Landscapes are concepts as well as physical places. As we move through them we engage our social and cultural precepts, inventing and elaborating, emphasising or disregarding natural features, and bestowing ever-changing meanings on the arbitrary congurations of signicance that we perceive. Topography becomes toponymy, reected in, and acknowledged by, a layering of material traces. Few places epitomise these processes in a more palpableor a more contentiousway than the desert of coastal southern Peru. The Nazca pampa, 220km2 in extent, is one of many arid desert plateaux that separate the habitable river valleys of the region. The part known as the Pampa de San Jos e is famous for its palimpsest of pre-Columbian geoglyphs (lines, geometric designs, and zoomorphic gures). In fact, geoglyphs extend over the entire Nazca pampa, making it a unique example of the social construction of landscape, and of landscape as ongoing social process. Yet its status as an icon of international cultural heritage (D az Arriola 2000) is matched by its nature as one of the worlds most fragile archaeological landscapes, and exacerbated by endless speculation on the origins and purpose of its enigmatic desert markings. Tensions between investigation, preservation, development and tourism, existing since the 1970s,
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School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UU, UK Antiquity Publications Ltd. 86 (2012): 11261140 http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/086/ant0861126.htm

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resulted in access to the pampa being restricted, and also help to explain an almost 20-year absence of in situ investigations after the mid-1980s. The geoglyphs are primarily associated with the Nasca culture (c. 100 BCc. AD 700) and were produced, broadly speaking, by picking up or sweeping aside the oxide-darkened desert pavement of small stones to reveal lighter, sandy soil beneath (Silverman & Proulx 2002: 172). The theories that have attempted to explain these designs on the desert are a roll call of shifting twentieth-century obsessions, von D anikens (1969) supposed alien landing strips being by far the most notorious example, albeit globally inuential in heightening public awareness. Reiches (1968) astronomical-calendrical interpretation remains a dominant public narrative at local and national levels within Peru. More reasoned interpretations, grounded in Andean material culture and world-view, postulate connections to water and irrigation, walking, ceremonial activity, ritual clearing, kinship, and concepts of radiality, as well as astronomy in limited measure (Reinhard 1987; Aveni 1990, 2000; Rodr guez 1999; Johnson et al. 2002). Clusters of hill-top geoglyphs in the nearby Palpa valley area, north of the Nazca desert, have recently been mapped from the air (Sauerbier 2009; see also Arnold 2009) and, signicantly, investigated on the ground using a range of archaeological techniques (Lambers 2006; Reindel et al. 2006). This important advance has tied Palpas geoglyphs to material culture (Reindel & Wagner 2009), and revealed both to be typically Nasca, and thus coeval with the almost identical, though larger-scale and more densely-packed, desert designs of the Nazca pampa. Our investigations seek to explain this scale and density. While we acknowledge in general terms that the Nazca geoglyphs were in some way a vivication of indigenous concepts of obligation to create and maintain ritual and social space (Silverman 1990a: 45152; Urton 1990), we have not followed exclusively any prior theory. Instead, we adopted two distinct yet complementary approachesone sensorial, the other technological. Reconnaissance began in 2004, and established an 80km2 study area towards the south and west of the Nazca pampa bordering the valley of the Nazca River, where the ceremonial site of Cahuachi is located (Silverman 1993; Oreci 2009a). Over a period of ve years from 2007 we conducted an intensive and systematic investigation of the geoglyphs in this area, south of the most sensitive parts of the Pampa de San Jos e but still a fragile landscape with restricted access. As Nazcas desert drawings were created and used by people who walked on and had an intimate relationship with the pampa, we attempted to develop our own equally haptic (tactile) familiarity with the landscape in order to appreciate the physical and perceptual relationships that may have inuenced geoglyph production, use, and abandonment. The authors have spent more than 150 days in the study area walking over 1500km in the process. To make scientic sense of our subjective experiences, we gathered and analysed data on the physical structure of the geoglyphs and their cultural and environmental context, following well-established practice pioneered by investigators such as Clarkson (1990). In short, we combined an experiential mode of inquiry with satellite digital mapping and a detailed scientic examination of the material evidence. During the rst eldwork season we relocated a remarkable and previously unreported desert drawing, initially encountered by CR in 1984 and still undocumented. This provided
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Figure 1. The labyrinth in context: features in the wider landscape and covering a broader chronology. All mapped geoglyph features are shown, but footpaths are omitted for clarity. Dots mark rows of small stone piles. Lighter lines indicate the sides of washes. Drawing: Deborah Miles-Williams.

some unique insights into the placement of geoglyphs in the landscape, and their design and intended use. In this paper, we focus upon this design and its broader implications for understanding the human use of the Nazca pampa and the cultural signicance of its desert markings.

Experiencing the unexpected: a labyrinth recognised


Line Centre 51 (LC51; Figure 1) is one of a cluster of nine line centresprominent points in the landscape from which many linear geoglyphs radiatenoted by Aveni (1990: 48, 6869). It is situated at 486736 8366376 and elevation 416m, about 4km north of the
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Figure 2. Plan of the LC51 labyrinth showing washes. Drawing: Deborah Miles-Williams.

Nazca River valley and almost directly across the valley from Cahuachi. However, LC51 is anomalous. It has only one narrow radiating line, to the south, plus a triple lineone wide line anked by two narrower onesextending to the NW. On 5 June 1984, while investigating LC51 as part of a statistical investigation of radial line azimuths (Ruggles 1990), CR began walking the central line of the triplet to the NW out from the centre, and in doing so began what might be described as a personal rite of passage. This central line (A in Figure 2), narrowing steadily from some 5.5m wide at the start (O), reaches a point 230m to the NW beyond which a 40m-long section has been completely washed away. However, the very end of the linenow only 1.1m widejust survives beyond the far side of the wash (B). Here it turns two right-angled corners to the left and then returns as the parallel line on the SW side (C). Following this line revealed that it does in fact turn left again at its SE end, passing directly in front of the start of the wide line (see Figure 3) and then turning again to form the other parallel line on the NE side (E). Continuing to follow the line, a succession of sharp corners was encountered, each of which suddenly revealed a further straight segment heading off in a new and unexpected direction. Ever-longer segments led progressively further away from the central focal point and then back again tantalisingly close. After 15 such corners came a unique feature: a tight curve (16). Beyond this were three long straight segments which, breaking the out and
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Figure 3. The view northwards from the central mound O. Wide line A can be seen stretching off to the left, with a narrow segment (D) passing directly in front. Photograph: Clive Ruggles.

back rhythm, swept out beyond and around the remainder of the gure before revealing the nal unanticipated element. After suddenly narrowing down to a mere 0.5m in width, the path transforms into a tight spiral (X), winding into the centre and out again and leaving the walker, after traversing a little over 4.4km, just 60m from the original starting point (see also Figure 4). The plans in Figures 1 and 2 are based upon survey data collected in 2007. Tables 1a and 1b list the basic data on length and orientations.

Discussion
The term labyrinthin the sense of a single path leading to and from a centre, constantly disorientating the walker along the way, as opposed to a branching maze with choices of path and direction (Kern 1982: 13; Aveni 2000: 220)seems wholly appropriate here. The labyrinth was clearly designed as an integral whole. It was evidently built with great care and consistency, every part constructed with a level surface of small stones and a regular bank of larger stones on each side. The width remains a constant 1.1m throughout, apart from where it widens out on approach to the central focal point (O) at one end and narrows through the spiral (X) at the other. All the segments are straight apart from VW, which has a slight kink, suggesting perhaps that the nal corner (18) and spiral (X) were built before being joined together. The whole gure is situated on relatively at ground between 414 and 418m in elevation, the only signicant undulations being two low mounds, one that forms the focal point (O) and the other at the turning points of the inner paths to the north-west
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Figure 4. Aerial view of the central and SW part of the labyrinth, showing the central mound O and paths A, C and E extending to the WNW; the spiral X; segments G, H and J passing behind (to the south of ) the central mound; and access path e extending away to the south. Photograph: Clive Ruggles.

(B, 5, 6). As a result, the labyrinth as an entity is invisible, and therefore hidden, in the landscape. Yet its overall design is asymmetric and, as viewed externally, is completely unaesthetic at least to Western sensibilities. It is certainly not representational in any obvious sense, and does not correspond to any motif known from Nasca iconography (Proulx 2006). A birds eye view, such as Figure 2, is therefore useless for understanding the meaning of the design; a sense of participating in a meaningful activity only emerges by walking. The design itself directs the walking experience, while the structure (i.e. the width of the path and the nature of the surface) shapes that experience for the mind and body (e.g. Ingold 2004: 321). Was the labyrinth unique? Probably not. Nevertheless, it is clearly unusual: within the immediate surrounding area of several square kilometres, where narrow lines and paths are typically between 0.4 and 0.7m in width, wider lines and trapezoids are several metres wide at least, and we have found no other curves or spirals. Fragments of comparable line segments are, however, found in an area some 700m to the south (around x in Figure 1), which indicates the likely existence of a similar construction or constructions, now almost unrecognisable. This emphasises how fortunate it is that the integrity of the LC51 labyrinth has not been compromised. All but one of the corners survive, including the unique curved corner 16, despite the fact that over 10 per cent of the gure has been washed away. The original position of corner 18 can easily be deduced from the two straight path segments leading up to it.
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Table 1a. LC51 labyrinth basic data: corners. Location Point Central terminal Corner 1 Corner 2 Corner 3 Corner 4 Corner 5 Corner 6 Corner 7 Corner 8 Corner 9 Corner 10 Corner 11 Corner 12 Corner 13 Corner 14 Corner 15 Start of curved segment End of curved segment Corner 17 Corner 18 Slight kink Start of spiral Last surviving part E 486732 486563 486558 486724 486742 486563 486540 486717 486787 486626 486636 486789 486802 486647 486661 486811 487086 487088 486666 486439 486516 486679 486684 N 8366385 8366595 8366588 8366376 8366392 8366607 8366586 8366329 8366361 8366678 8366688 8366414 8366422 8366795 8366802 8366427 8366559 8366567 8366821 8366598 8366491 8366326 8366341 Elevation (m asl) 417 419 419 418 418 419 418 416 417 420 420 417 417 420 420 417 419 419 421 415 412 412 413

The labyrinth in context The LC51 labyrinth does not exist in isolation. The wider area (see Figure 1) is strewn with geoglyphs, pathways and other features such as rows of small, regularly spaced stone piles or cairns (as distinct from clearance piles), marked by dots in the gure. Several straight lines cross the path of the labyrinth and a number of crossing points exist where the horizontal stratigraphy is sufciently well preserved to indicate the relative chronology: for example, where one line cuts across another at a crossing point, with its side banks unbroken, it clearly post-dates the other. There are three main points of interest: r The line marked a in Figure 1 is a segment of a long narrow line running directly across the pampa to the Mirador, a substantial hill and major line centre some 8km away to the NNE. The horizontal stratigraphy at the three crossing points shows that the labyrinth post-dates this. It is possible, therefore, that the labyrinth also post-dates many, and perhaps all, of the long lines joining line centres on opposite sides of the pampa. r Six faint lines, bunched in pairs, radiate out westwards from a line centre (LC48) some 200m to the east. Four of these cross the labyrinth several times while the remaining pair run up towards its northernmost corner (17). It is evident from the
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Table 1b. LC51 labyrinth basic data: segments. All angles are in degrees and lengths are in metres. End point (inner) Central terminal Corner 1 Corner 2 Corner 3 Corner 4 Corner 5 Corner 6 Corner 7 Corner 8 Corner 9 Corner 10 Corner 11 Corner 12 Corner 13 Corner 14 Corner 15 Start of curved segment End of curved segment Corner 17 Corner 18 Slight kink Start of spiral Total length End point (outer) Corner 1 Corner 2 Corner 3 Corner 4 Corner 5 Corner 6 Corner 7 Corner 8 Corner 9 Corner 10 Corner 11 Corner 12 Corner 13 Corner 14 Corner 15 Start of curved segment End of curved segment Corner 17 Corner 18 Slight kink Start of spiral Last surviving part Orientation (True azimuth) Length 269 8 270 24 280 31 312 76 356 14 314 15 404 16 404 304 11 492 319 132 232 122 4405 Width 5.5 > 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 0.5 Outward 321 221 142 49 320 227 145 66 333 46 151 59 337 65 158 64 Curved segment 301 226 144 135 Curved segment 121 46 324 315 Inward 141 41 322 229 140 47 325 246 153 226 331 239 157 245 338 244

Segment A B C D E F G H J K L M N P Q R S T U V W X

horizontal stratigraphy at the crossing points that four of these radial lines, and by implication all six of them, also predate the labyrinth. r A 900m-long line c joins the labyrinth centre to a large line centre (LC53) to the south. It runs straight except for a small but signicant (c. 7 ) change in direction on the intervening ridge (point d)the only place from which both ends are simultaneously visible. It is tempting to see this path as a means of access to the centre of the labyrinth. Line c appears to connect the labyrinth to a broader contemporary network of geoglyphs and thereby back to the Nazca Valley and in particular to Cahuachi, some 4km to the south. The various lines at multiple line centres such as LC53 were clearly added and elaborated in stages, and the horizontal stratigraphy indicates that line c was a relatively late addition. The broader chronological evidence in the area suggests a sequence of construction in which successive geoglyphs were built extending out from existing ones, but connected back to the existing line centres.
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The eastwest ridge containing points a, c, d and x represents the northern extent of the Cahuachi viewshedpoints in the landscape intervisible with Cahuachis tallest pyramids. The LC51 labyrinth represents an incursion onto the wide at pampa out of sight of Cahuachi that stretched northwards and eastwards towards the Andean foothills, the direction of the main source of ash-ood water ow down onto the pampa. Very little diagnostic pottery, or indeed pottery of any kind, was found either on or close to the various segments of the labyrinth. This stands in stark contrast to the relative frequency of sherds on some of the longer lines, pathways and line centres in the surrounding area. Indications from the ceramic analysis within our study areafor example, the fact that some of the earliest Nasca sherds have only been found at line centresseem to conrm the chronological sequence suggested by the horizontal stratigraphy and we tentatively conclude that the labyrinth should be assigned a date during or shortly before the Middle Nasca period (c. AD 450550). Walking and viewing If the labyrinth was built to be walked, who walked it? The lack of surface ceramics might be taken to imply that very few actually did. However, this absence may indicate that the labyrinth was scrupulously cleaned, in contrast to those geoglyphs that were abandoned in the process of construction or elaborationwhere utilitarian ceramics are commonplace and mollusc-shell food waste is presentor later used as pathways. The labryrinths width presumably constrained walkers to single le, and the lack of damage to the sides of the path (and especially to the narrower spiral) demonstrates that it was walked with extreme care. This argues against any form of mass walking. The physical integrity of the labyrinth is better explained by occasional walking, by an initiate, pilgrim, shaman or victim. It is also plausible to suggest, though impossible to prove, that the labyrinths signicance lay in metaphysical correlates associated with spiritual beliefs, rather than repeated use by humans. A nal possibility is that its cognitive integrity was compromised at an early stage, and that it was abandoned or forgotten soon after construction. A conceptual understanding of labyrinth walking is certainly worth attempting (cf. Aveni 2000: 21222). For instance, in the case of the LC51 gure, it is remarkable that, despite the lack of symmetry, there is a complete avoidance of the cardinal directions (to within about 23 ), and furthermore that in the case of the EW axis the zone of avoidance coincides with the arcs of sunrise and sunset. This implies that it was important to avoid walking directly north or south, or towards sunrise or sunset, perhaps for ideological reasons relating to cosmological principles. If this testable pattern is repeated elsewhere, then it argues in support of purposeful sky-oriented cultural activity (cf. Zi olkowski 2009). A more fundamental question is: which way should the labyrinth be walked? Walking the gure today provides no clear answer, since an equally impressive, if different, sequence of unexpected experiences results from walking the whole gure in the opposite direction to that described above. For those progressing inward (i.e. from X to O in Figure 2), the spiral could have provided a rite of passage into the world of the labyrinth (cf. Ingold 2007: 56), while the widening central line provided the climax as the central mound was nally approached. The widening is evident only when the line is walked, since it counters
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Figure 5. The view SSE-wards along line A towards the central mound O. Photograph: Clive Ruggles.

the apparent narrowing due to perspective and creates an optical illusion of parallelism (see Figure 5). Whatever the intended direction and both could have been equally important the low central mound was clearly the focus of the construction. Anyone standing on it would have had a clear view of people moving round the whole labyrinth and, conversely, the eminence itself can be seen from any position on the labyrinth. The terminus of the labyrinth is physically a dead end, cut off from the focal point on the hill by segment D (not labelled in Figure 2), which passes immediately in front. Perhaps this served to emphasise the perceived separation between someone standing on the central mound and someone walking the labyrinth. This would imply that the only open access to the focal point was by the direct path from the south (c in Figure 1), a route that, of necessity, crosses the labyrinth (at point e), at what appears to have been an open crossing. Like the labyrinth, the central mound is devoid of pottery. In this, it contrasts strongly with other small mounds in the landscape and in particular with line centre LC48, a mere 200m to the east, which contains numerous smashed pots. It is also unusual in not having a hard crust (desert pavement) of small or moderate-sized stones, something that typies numerous small natural mounds. This raises the possibility that it is an articial structure, something that invites investigation by excavation.

Chronology, taphonomy and use It is not straightforward to make a clear distinction between lines and paths. Many lines on the Nazca pampa are in fact well-worn paths, trodden down to a compacted sandy surface
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without well-dened edges; they are basically rather than purely straight (Lambers 2006: 71), sometimes with sinuous meanderings. In many cases, only their basic straightness gives any reason to suppose that they were pre-constructed as opposed to simply being created by walking. Within our study area we have identied several instances where well-worn paths deviate around topographic undulations, while the direct route preserves traces of a perfectly straight pristine lineavoided, presumably, because it was difcult or impossible to walk. This suggests that some lines later became exclusively used as footpaths while others, once constructed, were left relatively untouched. It is reasonable to assume that footpaths crossed the Nazca pampa before the appearance of Nasca culture: indeed, there is mounting evidence (e.g. Lambers 2006: g. 32) that some straight-line geoglyphs may have been constructed as early as the Late Paracas period (c. 400100 BC), characterised more typically by various distinctive biomorphic gures found in the PalpaNazca region (e.g. Oreci 2009b: 9699). Thus it was onto an existing network of functional trails that Nasca people laid out a framework of straight lines and geometric designs which, while undergoing constant elaboration, appear not to have been initially designed or used for everyday cross-pampa trafc. While it is likely that some pre-Nasca footpaths were integrated into this framework, given the need for traversing the pampa, the evidence suggests that pristine straight lines were conceived and laid out so as to form what might be termed an ideological gridin many cases connecting radial line centres located at conspicuous points around the pampa but in themselves purposefully ignoring the topography. Furthermore, their cultural value may have resided as much in the process of construction, maintenance and elaboration as in their role as loci for ritual activity. If so, then the linear perfection of such ideological lines was part of the grids conceptual coherence, and demanded a pristine preservation that all but strictly controlled use would have compromised. (Furthermore, their state of preservation suggests that even the use of contemporary footpaths was carefully controlled, as we argue below.) It cannot even be assumed that similar ideas and associations motivated the production of geoglyphs during the 800-year Nasca periodin this sense, it is clearly unproductive to regard them as a coherent entity (Silverman & Browne 1991: 209). Ideological considerations would have continued to dictate how every new geoglyph creation or elaboration should relate to what went before, but it is reasonable to assume that as time progressed elaborations and superimpositions started to compromise rather than reinforce its integrity. By late Nasca times, however, it is likely that segments of the pristine lines had started to be integrated on an ad hoc basis into the network of footpaths. The Nasca geoglyphs can certainly be assumed to have lost their culturally specic ideological dimensions by AD 700, a point reinforced by the fact that after Wari inuence (c. AD 700900) declined, the people of the Nazca region nowhere returned to Nasca symbols and styles (Silverman & Proulx 2002: 280). It can also be assumed that throughout the period of local polities and the Ica culture (AD 9001438), the areas still (mainly) ethnic Nasca population re-used certain Nasca-period straight lines as footpaths across the pampa, as well as continuing to use age-old routeways, while perhaps forging new ones across larger geoglyph designs (see also Urton 1990: 179).
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The Wari and Inka (AD 14381532) were Andean mountain cultures, whose intrusive presence into Nazcas coastal region was marked, at least for the latter, by the imposition of the Inka road system, whose geo-political imperial nature had little in common with local Nasca trans-pampa footpaths. The co-existence of such footpaths and the Inka road would have been unremarkable inasmuch as the latter would likely have been available only for those engaged on ofcial Inka business (Hyslop 1984: 2, 248). Spanish conquest and colonisation from 1532 onwards imposed a non-indigenous political economy and transportation technology on the Nazca region, which gradually recongured and re-valued at least some of the functional aspects of trans-pampa trafc. From colonial times to the present, transportation moved away from that based solely on walking, to one focused on horses and wheeled transport. During the twentieth century, the discovery of the geoglyphs focused attention on the zoomorphic gures and lines of obvious astronomical signicance in the Pampa de San Jos e area. The cleaning, tidying, and emphasising of these markings added another layer to be interpreted, and their international fame attracted uncontrolled tourism which left its own line system in the innumerable tyre tracks cutting into the pre-Columbian geoglyphs. Ironically, these and other disturbances were then fossilised into the landscape by laws restricting access, and have now become part of the archaeological record. Working within this broad interpretative framework, our project has generated a detailed narrative in the southern portion of the Nazca pampa based upon a large matrix of chronological relationships at crossing points informed by the analysis of ceramic and other surface artefacts. This adds time depth as well as a considerably improved level of detail to existing plans such as Avenis (compare Figure 1 and Aveni 1990: 48). (At the time of writing, many wider geoglyph features can be identied on GoogleEarth, but narrow lines and paths remain for the most part invisible.) In the immediate vicinity of the LC51 labyrinth we can identify several distinct episodes of geoglyph construction, starting with the long-distance narrow pristine lines passing right across the area; followed by line centre LC48, built on an existing long-distance line, and the construction and elaboration of LC53 within clear sight of Cahuachi to the south; and nally the construction of the labyrinth itself with a single ideological line connecting it back to LC53. A key issue that, surprisingly, has received little or no attention in the literature is that many of the Nazca pampas lines and footpaths appear to be so little damaged. If we set aside damage related to the passage of motor vehicles in recent decades, and also damage by ash oods caused by successive El Ni no episodes, it is notable that many centuries of movement across the pampa have failed to destroy the physical integrity of numerous narrow linear features. During Nasca times, in particular, when thousands of people may repeatedly have crossed the pampa en route to the Nasca pilgrimage centre of Cahuachi over decades or centuries (Silverman 1990b, 1993: 31117), this would have represented a signicant challenge to the integrity of both lines and footpaths. This implies that a considerable degree of control was somehow exercised over the styles of movement of social groups that presumably included children, the elderly, dogs, and llamas. Even comparatively slight damage to a pristine straight line (such as a segment of the LC51 labyrinth) in prehistoric times would have left traces plainly visible today. Such a tightly controlled landscape, with a clear differentiation between meandering footpaths and an ideological
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grid of pristine straight lines and geometrical gures, itself suggests social differentiation in terms of knowledge of and access to certain areas of the pampa. The LC51 labyrinth itself is an epitome of controlled walking, and as such it clearly reinforces this general argument.

Conclusions
Deserts, like all landscapes, have their own languages that archaeologists must master if they are to provide plausible accounts of the interactions between culture and nature. The Nazca pampa is geologically distinctive, its own fragility having preserved substantive and delicate surface traces of past cultural activity for at least 2000 years. For Nasca society, the desert markings of those who had gone beforethe ancestors remained plain to see for each successive generation or social group. The intensive superimposition of the pampas geoglyphs suggests that for the Nasca, in a unique way, landscapes were woven into life, and lives were woven into the desert (Tilley 1994: 2930). The practice of creating new geoglyphs over earlier ones was an ongoing process which stopped, possibly suddenly, and for unknown reasons, leaving a variety of them in different stages of completion. In attempting to discern the temporal sequence of their construction, we suggest that an ideological grid of pristine straight lines and geometrical designs was superimposed upon pre-existing footpaths, and elaborated over time. However, it also began to deteriorate, its integrity compromised by natural events and also, increasingly, by processes of abandonment, superimposition, and partial re-use as footpaths. The LC51 labyrinth serves, we suggest, as an analogue for the wider Nazca pampa, where many straight lines and geometrical features that are not visibly associated from one location are nonetheless ultimately recognised as being connected as one moves along or around them. The form of the LC51 labyrinth was not apparent, and its design and size were in no way obvious because it was, and remains, hidden within the local landscape. Apart from being told of its existence, the only way of knowing and appreciating the location and extent of the labyrinth was, and still is, to walk its entire 4.4km length: in other words, to sublimate vision to embodied movement across the pampa, in a confusing and disorienting sequence of direction changes, until one arrives virtually back at the beginning. The LC51 labyrinth may be a microcosm of a larger organising principle similarly hidden on the wider pampa, and whose conceptual signicance emerges only from a combination of prior ritual knowledge, styles of movement and glimpses of intervisibility. It is clear that understanding the Nazca pampas confusing palimpsest of desert markings cannot be achieved by importing Western notions and big scientic ideas that purport to unlock an enigmatic mystery. More useful, perhaps, is what Ingold has called a more grounded approach to human movement, sensitive to embodied skills of footwork, [which] opens up new terrain in the study of environmental perception . . . and landscape formation (2004: 315). Vision is the dominant western sense of knowing the world, but for the LC51 labyrinth, and presumably other geoglyphs as well, it was partly elided in favour of physically sensing the pampa by moving in single le along a continuous narrow line or pathway. Only through in situ study of geoglyph taphonomy, and a constant adjustment of our theoretical engagement with it, can a more nuanced appreciation be gained of an aspect of Nasca culture
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that has hitherto been unrecognised. Negotiating the space between sensoriality, technology, and the archaeology of the surface, begins this long-overdue process.

We are indebted for nancial and logistical support to the Asociaci on Cultural Peruano Brit anica, Lima, and particularly to the Cultural Director Mar a Elena Herrera. Hearty thanks are due to our eld collaborators Iv an Ghezzi, Marilyn Herrera, Jos e Antonio Hudtwalcker, Johny Isla, Alberto Urbano and Gerald Zubiaga, as well as to Alejandro Bocanegra and Rub en Garc a for their invaluable local assistance. CR also thanks Anthony Aveni for introducing him to the pampa and, unwittingly, to the LC51 gure, back in 1984. We are most grateful for the helpful comments of the referees. Note: we follow authors such as Silverman and Proulx (2002) in using the term Nazca for the modern place but Nasca for the ancient culture. Locations were determined with Trimble Pro-XRS equipment using real-time differential correction from OmniStar. Horizontal positions are quoted in UTM co-ordinates (zone 18S) on the WGS84 datum, while all elevations are above Mean Sea Level (dened Geoid EGM96 [Global]). Where a point is archaeologically well dened, both the horizontal co-ordinates and the elevation are considered accurate to within 1m (68 per cent precisions as determined by the GPS being typically 0.3m in the horizontal and 0.5m in the vertical).

References
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Acknowledgements

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Received: 29 October 2009; Revised: 26 January 2012; Accepted: 19 March 2012

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