Bewildering Stories

The Plains of Nazca

Jo Bloggs

Three hundred geometric figures, fifty animal and plant shapes, and over thirteen hundred kilometers of straight lines are carved in the desert of southwestern Peru. Where did they come from? Could the Nazca Indians have produced such complex drawings? Or did extraterrestrials create them?

Mysterious lines and shapes cover the desert of southwestern Peru. The most famous are biomorphic shapes depicting various life forms, including a spider, a monkey, a whale, a snake, a flower, a lizard, and eighteen different birds. There are also geometric shapes, consisting mostly of spirals, zigzags, trapezoids, and triangles. However, most of the land is covered with straight lines that range in width from six inches to a few hundred meters.

The lines date back to more than one thousand years ago. The surface of the Peruvian desert consists of volcanic rocks that cover a soft yellow soil beneath. By removing these rocks and piling them on each side, the Nazcans were able to create these gigantic drawings. Since Nazca is a very dry and windless region, the drawings have remained for over a millennium.

The Nazca lines were first discovered by Julio Tello, a Peruvian archaeologist, in 1926. Ever since, scientists around the world have tried to explain the origin and purpose of these drawings, but no theory has proved sufficient.

How the drawings were formed is not a mystery, however. The straightness of the lines and the gigantic size and complexity of the drawings have caused some to believe that the Nazca Indians could not have produced them. Straight lines could be drawn, however, by using stakes or strings. Bill Spohrer, an American resident of Peru, believes that the Nazca Indians may have been capable of flight. The Nazcans had a fabric with fine weave that could have been used to construct balloons that could be used for short flights. Although Spohrer and Jim Woodman have constructed a balloon made out of a similar fabric that flew for a short period of time, there is no real evidence to show that the Nazcans used balloons for flight.

The purpose of the drawings remains a mystery. Paul Kosok, one of the first people to study the lines, proposed that they had an astronomical purpose and were connected with astronomical events. Maria Reiche, after measuring and mapping the lines, later expanded this theory and believed that the lines predicted the positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars and could also be used to tell what time would be right for planting seeds and harvesting crops. In 1968, however, Gerald Hawkins showed that the lines were apparently random and did not necessarily point to any celestial bodies.

Persis B. Clarkson, however, believes that the lines may not have an astronomical purpose but may have been used for purposes of irrigation or transportation. They may have marked sacred roads used for religious pilgrimages. Evidence for this theory includes hilltops that form points from which lines radiated like the spokes of a wheel.

Clarkson also believes that the drawings may not have been intended to be seen from above. The Nazcans may have a different concept of art, and by walking the lines, one could experience the drawing. Different cultures may have different concepts of art.

Johan Reinhard thinks that the animal figures drawn in the desert may be representations of the mountain gods, who were thought to take the forms of different animals. The Nazca Indians may have made the drawings as large as they are so that the mountain gods, who were presumed to live up above, could clearly see them.

Many people, however, simply refuse to believe that the Nazcans could have created such large, precise, and complex drawings. Instead, they believe that the drawings were created by extraterrestrials. An arrow-like rectangular shape could have served as a runway for alien spaceships, and an anthropomorphic representation of an owl could actually be a picture of an alien. However, no clear evidence exists to support this idea, despite popular belief.

None of these theories sufficiently explain the origin and purpose of the drawings on the plains of Nazca. Since not enough information is known, no one is truly sure what the drawings really are and why there are there. Because of this, people continue to formulate theories about the Nazca lines.

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Copyright 2002 by Jo Bloggs and Bewildering Stories.