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The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert
in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in
1994. The high and arid plateau stretches more than 80 km between the towns
of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima.
Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the
Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D.
The individual figures vary in complexity. Hundreds are simple lines or
geometric shapes; more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of animals such as
birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, and monkeys, or human figures. Other designs
include phytomorphic shapes such as trees and flowers.
The designs are shallow lines made in the ground by removing the reddish
pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath. The largest figures
are up to 370 m in length. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the
designs but, in general, they ascribe religious significance to them.
Due to its isolation and to the dry, windless, and stable climate of the plateau,
the lines have mostly been naturally preserved. Extremely rare changes in
weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of 2012, the lines are
said to have been deteriorating due to squatters that inhabit the lands.
Contrary to the popular belief that the lines and figures can only be seen with
the help of flight, they are visible from atop the surrounding foothills.
Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe was the first to study and report
the Nazca Lines in detail after coming across them, on foot, in 1927. In the
1930s as air traffic in the area increased, the lines became better known,
attracting more tourists.
The purpose of the lines continues being a topic of discussion of the
researchers. The ancient Nazca culture was prehistoric, which means they
didn't leave written records. One hypothesis is that the Nazca people created
them to be seen by their gods in the sky. Others say that the lines are linked to
the heavens, because some of them represent constellations in the night sky.
Another idea is that the lines play a role in pilgrimage, to reach a sacred place
such as Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids. Also, another idea is that the lines
are connected with water, something vital to life but hard to get in the desert,
and may have played a part in water-based rituals. The Swiss writer Erich Von
Daniken, in 1968, considered the Nazca Lines, one of the evidence that the
man had received alien visit that had influenced in the history. According to this
particular view of the past, Nazca was a complex for landing some visitors that
humans had become them in gods later.