The Nazca Lines and Their Meaning Unveiled

Nazca Lines Stones

What are the origins and meanings of the Nazca Lines?


South of Lima, on the coast, the region of the city of Nazca is characterized by a sandy desert that stretches for thousands of kilometers across the Peruvian coast. And as you move away from the city and you enter the dessert, you discover many gigantic and impressive geoglyphs, drawings, figures drawn on the ground that have an aura of mystery attached to them that has been almost impossible to uncover

It's no exageration to say that the mystery behind this figures have taken lives with them to know a little bit more of their use, or reason behind their implementation.

On the dunes of this desert, one can see on the gray ground the traces of the Nazca civilization, a pre-Incan culture dating from 300 to 800 years before our era. The shapes of birds, monkeys, hummingbirds, condors, or geometric shapes such as spirals or broken lines, are up to 270m long, and seem to represent the deities of this ancient civilization. The incredible preservation of these motifs is due to the severe drought (which prevents plant growth) and the absence of wind, due to the very hot air that reigns in this desert.

Maria Reiche's Importance

There are several theories about the meaning of these strange drawings. One of the most popular is that of the German mathematician Maria Reiche, who dedicated her life's work to the study of these traces on the earth. According to her, it would be an enormous astronomical calendar, whose main lines would give the direction of the main stars or constellations. 

This theory was later refuted and replaced or augmented by other research: a ritual site, a means to find water sources, a sound amplifier to predict earthquakes, or for the more eccentric, a landing strip for extraterrestrials... Experts could not agree on the origin and use of these strange shapes.

UNESCO classified this site as a World Heritage Site in 1994; and one can admire these formidable remains of the past by flying over them from small planes that transport tourists.

So, what is the meaning of the Nazca Lines?

The greatest pending enigma about the Nazca Lines has to do with the purpose or reason for which they were drawn. The archaeologist Julio César Tello ventured that they were "sacred roads", while the American historian John Rowe considered them "centers of worship".

The mathematician Max Uhle, meanwhile, formulated the hypothesis that these drawings were actually a gigantic calendar, a thesis that was partially shared by the American anthropologist Paul Kosok, who proposed the theory that the Nazca Lines, "the largest scale calendar in the world", according to his own words, were calendrical and astronomical signs.

According to Kosok and his disciple, the German mathematician María Reiche, the purpose of the Nazca Lines was to point to the sun and celestial bodies on the distant horizon. The lines, according to these scholars, would mark points related to the solstice and equinox, so they would have served as a measuring instrument to establish a solar calendar. However, many years later, Gerald Hawkins, an astronomy specialist, would cast doubt on this theory by not finding an adequate correlation between the geometries of the lines and the position of the stars.

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