My se­cret marvel NAZCA LINES

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Secret Marvels - Best viewed from the air, the Nazca Lines can also be seen from the mi­rador (view­ing tower) 12 miles out­side Nazca. By Anna Kamin­ski

The lit­tle plane jud­ders along the run­way of Peru’s tiny Nazca Air­port and takes off. There are eight of us in­side – two pi­lots and six pas­sen­gers. Soon we’re high above the green­ery sur­round­ing dusty Nazca town, fly­ing over bare hills and vast desert. The desert is not fea­ture­less, how­ever. We see ruler-straight lines etched into the stony ground, some con­verg­ing and cross­ing over be­fore disappearing into the dis­tance. Then the an­i­mals come into view: a mon­key with an in­tri­cately curved tail, a hum­ming­bird with a long beak, a mon­strous spi­der the size of the Em­pire State Build­ing, a bird, a tree, a lizard. Their limbs are per­fectly pro­por­tioned, the lines per­fectly straight. We are glued to the win­dows in awe as the plane twists this way and that, cir­cling above each gi­ant fig­ure to en­sure ev­ery­one gets a good look. Once back on the ground, we dis­perse to con­tem­plate what we’ve wit­nessed. Who drew th­ese enor­mous an­i­mals? Who etched those straight lines into the sur­face of the desert? How? Why? First brought to wider at­ten­tion in the 1930s, when com­mer­cial pi­lots be­gan fly­ing over Peru, the Nazca Lines – a se­ries of miles-long straight lines, geo­met­ric shapes and gi­ant an­i­mal fig­ures scat­tered over the parched Nazca Plain – have posed a puz­zle to ar­chae­ol­o­gists and con­spir­acy the­o­rists alike. It is be­lieved that the ge­o­glyphs were con­structed by the an­cient Nazca peo­ple who flour­ished here from around 200 BC to AD 600. The lines were made by re­mov­ing earth and rust-coloured rocks from the sur­face of the desert, ex­pos­ing 30cm of light-coloured sand be­neath. The de­signs have re­mained largely in­tact for up to 2,000 years due to lack of rain, wind and ero­sion. How the an­cient de­sign­ers cre­ated such straight lines and per­fectly pro­por­tioned an­i­mals re­mains a mys­tery, how­ever, as does their pur­pose. The­o­ries abound, some more out­ra­geous than oth­ers: that the straight lines are an­cient run­ways for alien space­ships or that the an­i­mals are part of a gi­ant astro­nom­i­cal calendar. Most re­cent the­o­ries sug­gest that the an­i­mal images ei­ther rep­re­sented as­tro­log­i­cal phases or the totems of dif­fer­ent Nazca clans. As for the lines and trape­zoids, it is pos­si­ble that they were used in rit­u­als to beg the gods for water in one of the dri­est parts of Peru.

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