My secret marvel NAZCA LINES
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.