Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines

▪ archaeological site, Peru
Nazca also spelled  Nasca,  

groups of large line drawings and figures that appear, from a distance, to be etched into the earth's surface on the arid Pampa Colorada (“Coloured Plain,” or “Red Plain”), northwest of the city of Nazca in southern Peru. They extend over an area of nearly 190 square miles (500 square km).

 Constructed more than 2,000 years ago by the people of the Nazca culture (Nazca) (c. 200 BC–AD 600), the Nazca Lines include about 70 images of plants and animals—such as a monkey (some 360 feet [110 metres] long), a killer whale (210 feet [65 metres]), a bird resembling a condor (443 feet [135 metres]), a hummingbird (165 feet [50 metres]), a pelican (935 feet [285 metres]), a spider (150 feet [46 metres]), and various flowers, trees, and other plants—as well as geometric shapes, including triangles, trapezoids, and spirals. Virtually indecipherable from ground level, they are plainly visible from the air.

      Since their discovery in the 1920s, the lines have been variously interpreted, but their significance remains largely shrouded in mystery. The American historian Paul Kosok observed the lines from an airplane in 1941 and hypothesized that they were drawn for astronomical purposes. María Reiche, a German translator who spent years studying the site and lobbying for its preservation, also concluded that it was a huge astronomical calendar and that some of its animal sketches were modeled after groupings of stars in the night sky. In 1967, however, the American astrophysicist Gerald Hawkins found no correlation between changes in the celestial bodies and the design of the Nazca Lines. Some archaeologists believe that the site is either a cluster of sacred paths or an outdoor temple.

 The Nazca Lines are preserved naturally by the region's dry climate and by winds that sweep sand out of their grooves. They are not protected from the passage of motor vehicles over them, however, and tire tracks and roadways have marred the otherwise pristine plain. UNESCO added the Nazca site to its World Heritage List (World Heritage site) in 1994.

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Universalium. 2010.

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