Travels with my Art

Paintings and Photographs inspired by Travels Around the World

Visiting the Mysterious Nazca Lines of Peru

The World Heritage listed Nazca Lines in Peru are considered to be one of history’s greatest mysteries.

The lines, which can only be seen from the air, were discovered in the early twentieth century, when aeroplanes started flying over the Nazca desert in Peru. Passengers reported seeing strange lines, figures, and shapes on the ground. Etched into the earth’s surface were enormous images of monkeys, birds, spiders, hummingbirds, condors, hands, fish, flowers, spirals, llamas and even a rather odd looking astronaut.

Nazca Lines – The Spider

Erich Von Däniken’s Alien Theory about the Nazca Lines

I first came across the Nazca Lines when I read Erich Von Däniken’s infamous book ‘Chariots of the Gods‘.

In his book, Swiss archaeologist Däniken claimed these images of animal and plants had been made by aliens. Däniken said the lines, created two thousand years ago, were the remains of an alien life form that had used the markings as a guide for a landing base in Peru. He believed that the lines were from the aliens that had used the airport to visit earth. I suppose it comes as no surprise that this was written in 1968 at the height of sixties psychedelia.

For decades, the Nazca lines have captured the imagination of historians, researchers, and tourists. After reading Däniken’s book, despite being a bit of a conspiracy theory cynic, I wanted to find out more too. So when I travelled to Peru, I made sure I would visit the  Nazca lines.

Visiting the Nazca Lines

Map of the Nazca Line in Peru

Getting into the four-seater Nazca Lines tourist plane, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, especially when they handed me a sick bag.

Flying over the desert out of the window you see nothing, apart from the monotonous desert tundra.  Then suddenly, a bit like a magic eye picture (if you remember what they are) the images appear – I could see the monkey, the flower, the swirl, the astronaut, the spider and the hummingbird.

As we were landing, I could see one of the shapes close up. I could actually see how the lines had been made. By removing rocks and dirt the Nazca People to create a specific image.

My watercolour sketch of the Nazca Lines, from the ground

Nazca Line Theories

Nobody knows why the different geoglyphs were drawn, but endless Nazca Lines theories have appeared to try to give meaning.

  • Däniken’s theory that drawings were made by aliens who used the lines as landing strips.
  • Archaeologist Donald Proulx and hydrogeologist Stephen Mabee claimed that the lines pointed to different supplies and sources of groundwater.
  • Another theory posed by archaeologist Johan Reinhard  was that the lines are related to some kind of ritual practice for the worship of water.
  • German archaeologist Maria Reiche believed the lines were a kind of astronomical observatory.

Nazca Line -The Facts

  • The Nazca lines,  also called biomorphs and geoglyphs, are named after the ancient civilization that lived in the region: the Nazca.
  • The Nazca Lines were most likely created between 500 BC and 500 AD.
  • Researchers have catalogued 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs.
  • The individual figurative geoglyph designs measure between 0.4 and 1.1 km (.2 and .7 mi) across.
  • The combined length of all the lines is over 1,300 km.
  •  The Nazca Lines cover an area of the about 50 km2

The Nazca Lines – designed by Simon E Davies

In the twenty-first century when we can find answers to most things, the Nazca Lines still remain of history’s greatest mysteries.

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