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Figures, Lines & Posterity!

Apart from the Seven Wonders, there are many other things in this world that make people gape at them. Even the scientists are yet to resolve the mysteries hidden in some of those. One such mysterious element is Peru’s Nazca Lines, a group of pre-Columbian geoglyphs etched into desert sands. Covering an area of nearly 1,000sqkm, there are about 300 different figures, including humans, animals and plants. Composed of over 10,000 lines, some of which measure 30mt wide, and stretch more than 9km, the figures are mostly visible from the air or nearby hilltops.

The Nazca Lines can be found near the Nazca Desert, about 400km south of the Peruvian capital of Lima. Apart from the figures of animals and plants, there are various straight lines and geometric designs engraved on the ground, there! Images or designs made there at the Nazca Lines can be divided into two parts: Geoglyphs and Biomorphs. While Geoglyphs are large designs or motifs (generally longer than 4mt) produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, live trees, gravel, or earth; Biomorphs are decorative forms or objects based on or resembling a living organism. In the southern part of Peru, one could find more than 100 Geoglyphs and Biomorphs!

Nazca Lines

Archaeologists believe that the Nazca Lines are about 2,000 years old, as these designs were seemingly made between 500 BC and 500 AD. This wonderful landscape came to the notice only after the introduction of commercial flight service in Peru in the 1930’s, since the lines are virtually impossible to identify from ground level. Although experts have been studying the Nazca Lines for the last 80 years, they are still a mystery to researchers. The UNESCO declared Nazca Lines a World Heritage Site on December 17, 1994.

Peruvian Archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe was the first to systematically study the Lines in 1926. Later, American Professor Paul Kosok, who found himself at the foot of a line on June 22, 1941, called the 310 square mile stretch of high desert “the largest astronomy book in the world”! Maria Reiche of Germany, too, had been conducting researches on the Nazca Lines for almost 40 years. She even built a small room near the Lines for studying them from close. The German researcher was also known as the “Lady of Lines“.


Among the other celebrated geoglyphs of mammals, birds and insects are a monkey, killer whale, spider, and condor. Various plants, geometric shapes (spirals, zigzag lines and trapezoids), abstract patterns, and intersecting lines fill the desert plain, known as the Pampa, an area covering approximately 200 square miles near the foothills of the Andes. The zoomorphic geoglyphs are the oldest and most esteemed. Each appears to have been made with a single continuous line. In 16 giant designs, the Nazca people had drawn birds’ beaks, wings and tails that were much larger than their bodies. The researchers are trying hard to find out where those birds were found. They are also making an attempt to understand whether the Nazcas conveyed a message through all these designs. Some of them are of the opinion that there may be a link between Nazca geoglyphs and astronomy…

Many of the mysteries of the Nazca Lines have not yet been resolved. Firstly, how could all these lines remain intact even after facing natural disasters? Secondly, how were these huge drawings made possible? Thirdly, why were these Lines made?

The Nazca civilisation flourished on the southern coast of Peru between 200 BC and 600 AD. The civilisation became famous mainly for its collection of potteries and clothing. According to experts, the local people had made the geoglyphs. Some researchers believe that the Nazca people made the geoglyphs of animals as they had seen them before their arrival in that particular part of Peru. Others opine that some images are imaginary.

The Nazca desert is not sandy, but made of dark red surface stones and soil with lighter-coloured subsoil beneath. The Nazca people removed the red stone, and drew the geoglyphs by making 12-15inch holes on the gray stones below. However, a logical answer as to how these Lines of the geoglyphs were made has not yet been found. Also, there are disagreements among scientists over the existing theories. The Nazca Lines still remain so mysterious that some researchers believe that aliens might have made the geoglyphs in Peru. A section of them considers the geoglyphs as spaceship runways of the aliens! One hypothesis is that the Nazca people created them to be seen by deities in the sky.

Perhaps, the anthropologists, ethnologists and archaeologists will manage to determine the purpose of these lines and figures, in near future.

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