New light on the Nazca Lines

Dec 09, 2012
Credit: Clive Ruggles

The first findings of the most detailed study yet by two British archaeologists into the Nazca Lines – enigmatic drawings created between 2,100 and 1,300 years ago in the Peruvian desert – have been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.

As part of a five-year investigation, Dr Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and Professor Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester walked 1,500 km of in , tracing the lines and geometric figures created by the Nasca people between 100 BC and AD 700.

The confusing palimpsest of desert drawings has attracted a host of theories purporting to explain them ever since they were discovered during the 1920s – notably the bizarre ideas of Erich Von Daniken who supposed they were made by visiting extra-terrestrials.

Dr Saunders and Professor Ruggles combined the experience and knowledge gained by walking the lines, studying the layers of superimposed designs, photographing the associated pottery and using satellite digital mapping into the most detailed such study to date.

They discovered a new design of labyrinthine complexity 'hidden' in the landscape. Invisible in its entirety to the naked eye, the only way of knowing its existence is to walk its 4.4km length through disorienting direction changes which ended (or began) inside a spiral formation.

They studied the integrity of many lines and figures, and suggest that after 1,500 years, the often well-preserved contours of these features argue against crowds of people and their animals walking along them to the ancient pilgrimage centre of Cahuachi in the nearby Nazca Valley.

Dr Saunders said: "Meandering and well-worn trans-desert pathways served such functional purposes but they are quite different from the arrow-straight lines and geometric shapes which seem more likely to have had a spiritual and ritual purpose. It may be, we suggest, that the real importance of some of these desert drawings was in their creation rather than any subsequent physical use."

Explore further: Ancient Greek well yields rare wooden statue

More information: "Desert labyrinth: lines, landscape and meaning at Nazca, Peru", by Clive Ruggles & Nicholas J. Saunders, Antiquity 86, 1126–1140. antiquity.ac.uk/ant/086/ant0861126.htm

Related Stories

Archaeologists explore Peruvian mystery

May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones may be flying over the Nazca Lines in Peru in his latest Hollywood adventure, but two British archaeologists have been investigating the enigmatic desert drawings for several years.

Desert mystery

Jun 25, 2012

There’s a mystery in the Syrian desert shielded by the conflict tearing apart the Middle Eastern nation.

Rare animal-shaped mounds discovered in Peru

Mar 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- For more than a century and a half, scientists and tourists have visited massive animal-shaped mounds, such as Serpent Mound in Ohio, created by the indigenous people of North America. But ...

The desert is dying

Feb 14, 2007

Researchers from University of Bergen have found that trees, which are a main resource for desert people and their flocks, are in significant decline in the hyper-arid Eastern Desert of Egypt.

Recommended for you

US state reaches deal to keep dinosaur mummy

8 hours ago

North Dakota reached a $3 million deal to keep a rare fossil of a duckbilled dinosaur on display at the state's heritage center, where it will serve as a cornerstone for the facility's $51 million expansion, officials said ...

Jerusalem stone may answer Jewish revolt questions

11 hours ago

Israeli archaeologists said Tuesday they have discovered a large stone with Latin engravings that lends credence to the theory that the reason Jews revolted against Roman rule nearly 2,000 ago was because ...

Kung fu stegosaur

11 hours ago

Stegosaurs might be portrayed as lumbering plant eaters, but they were lethal fighters when necessary, according to paleontologists who have uncovered new evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat. The ...

User comments : 25

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SleepTech
4.6 / 5 (10) Dec 09, 2012
Do you mean to tell me that "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel was incorrect?

;)
VendicarD
4.5 / 5 (15) Dec 09, 2012
Odd how no "new light" has illuminated these lines drawn in the desert, contrary to the article title.

Chromodynamix
3 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2012
To quote..."as ancient alien theorists suggest...."
Egleton
3 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2012
Either the aliens dun it or humans are not quite sane.
obama_socks
1.6 / 5 (8) Dec 09, 2012
"""Using stratigraphic and taphonomic reasoning to decide which lines were contemporary, they discover an itinerary so complex they can justify calling it a labyrinth, and see it as serving ceremonial progressions."""
The word 'taphonomic' describes the study of the transitions of remains, parts, or products of organisms, from the biosphere to the lithosphere, i..e., the creation of fossil assemblages.

I do not see any relation of that definition to Nazca lines. Sure, it's archaeology, but how does 'fossils' become relevant in the lines, except for determining their age?

As seen from far above, the straight lines are perfectly straight and distances between them are evenly spaced. These drawings had to be done from above, not at ground level, imo. Laser beams?
Bog_Mire
3.7 / 5 (6) Dec 09, 2012
troll alert
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4 / 5 (8) Dec 09, 2012
Nice, but that is likely as far as we will get without insight into the communities responsible.

@ Vendicar: Lots of new info in the article, likely more in the paper. Eg: These are not functional in part, but symbolical. And their purpose is not to be seen from far away but is tied to the creation process.

@ obama_socks: Meaningless to ponder how they applied taphonomic reasoning directly or indirectly without looking in the paper.

And their result rejects your idea that these things were seen from above. Today people make similar patterns in vegetation fields by using ropes. "Laser" - are you joking or are you a joke (or a troll, but I rather not consider that)?
Lurker2358
4 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2012
Either the aliens dun it or humans are not quite sane.


Obviously humans are not quite sane.

One need only look at all the ancient cultures which practiced human sacrifice, both in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. Ancient Rome, not quite sane with it's gladiator pits and forced battle re-enactments.

Or what about modern man? Our culture is insane as well, paying circus clowns thousands of times more per year than people who have real jobs.

Sonhouse
5 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2012
Odd how no "new light" has illuminated these lines drawn in the desert, contrary to the article title.
They were no doubt referring to the use of the newer LED flashlights, much more efficient than the old mag lights.....


Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2012
"""Using stratigraphic and taphonomic reasoning to decide which lines were contemporary, they discover an itinerary so complex they can justify calling it a labyrinth, and see it as serving ceremonial progressions."""
The word 'taphonomic' describes the study of the transitions of remains, parts, or products of organisms, from the biosphere to the lithosphere, i..e., the creation of fossil assemblages.

I do not see any relation of that definition to Nazca lines. Sure, it's archaeology, but how does 'fossils' become relevant in the lines, except for determining their age?

As seen from far above, the straight lines are perfectly straight and distances between them are evenly spaced. These drawings had to be done from above, not at ground level, imo. Laser beams?
If the land permitted line of sight, they could have just used a fire and line posts up along the way for straight lines. If no line of sight, fires would still light the way for straight line making. Any check for char?
Sonhouse
not rated yet Dec 09, 2012
Do you mean to tell me that "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel was incorrect?
Here is a map, not sure of the accuracy: These things could be the result of seeing meteors or meteorites and thinking they were some sign of god or gods and this was the response. Remember the pacific Islander making a religion out of the sighting of WW2 figher aircraft? I wonder if anyone has checked the lines for a line up with known meteor showers? Some of the lines look like they are coming from a point like showers do.

http://www.go2per...ines.htm

;)
_traw_at
5 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2012
The different lines of different ages ~are~ the fossils, Obama Socks.

Laying out straight lines like that would be an easy task for almost any motivated Boy Scout or Girl Guide, using three long sticks, and some rope would allow them to lay out any parallel lines they want.
VendicarD
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 09, 2012
The images drawn in the soil are a mystery only to those who seek to be mystified.
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2012
That's basic surveying. Spirals can be laid out by the "line and offset" method. Start your line with a measured distance, go out that far again, and measure a certain distance left or right. Your new segment follows the offset, and you repeat the process. Rail and road surveyors have been laying out curves for centuries that way.
richard_s_148
1 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2012
VendicarD: The new light was this part: "They discovered a new design of labyrinthine complexity 'hidden' in the landscape. Invisible in its entirety to the naked eye, the only way of knowing its existence is to walk its 4.4km length through disorienting direction changes which ended (or began) inside a spiral formation. They studied the integrity of many lines and figures, and suggest that after 1,500 years, the often well-preserved contours of these features argue against crowds of people and their animals walking along them to the ancient pilgrimage centre of Cahuachi in the nearby Nazca Valley."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (13) Dec 09, 2012
The different lines of different ages ~are~ the fossils, Obama Socks.

Laying out straight lines like that would be an easy task for almost any motivated Boy Scout or Girl Guide, using three long sticks, and some rope would allow them to lay out any parallel lines they want
I wouldn't correct obiewan the fake NASA technospeak engineer. It might make you look silly. She is completely familiar with all the permutations of many hypertech words like 'fossil'.

Perhaps particle beams would have been more de rigueur?
VendicarD
3 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2012
"The new light was this part:" - Richard

I must admit that that part was new to me as well. Never in my imagination would I have thought that anyone else would have thought that these thin lines drawn in the dirt were caused by crowds of people and their animals walking in a CLOSED path that traced out the shape or a bird on their way across the desert.

Perhaps the theorists who did think such things also thought that the entire lot of them would upon closing the end of the closed path, would magically jump from the end to the other side of the desert, leaving the place without footprints.

It could happen. I read about it on a ConservaTard Blog.
obama_socks
1 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2012
Or maybe the Dork brothers, Doug and Dave were there to use their rope, wooden planks and baseball caps just as they did for the hoaxy crop circles in England?
Oh wait, that would have to be their ancestors a few thousand years before who lived in Peru who did the Nazca lines.

:D
VendicarD
1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2012
When it comes to religion. They are all dork brothers.
Nawangsari
1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2012
The really amazing thing about the Nazca lines is that some mountains were leveled flat in order to draw these lines...this alone would have taken a few hundred years...it would have been an enormous undertaking, similar to that of building the pyramids.
These lines could have been drawn from the ground...no mystery there, but can only be appreciated from high altitude.
Erich Von Daniken ideas may seem bizarre, but compared to what i have read in the Bible and Quran it makes a hell of lot more sense.
obama_socks
1 / 5 (6) Dec 10, 2012
naaaah...Theghostofotto1923 aka Blotto will tell you that there's no such thing as flying saucers since he knows that for absolootly positootly for certain. Because as you know, the nose knows.
comendant
1 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2012
You know, I can say for certain that magic leprechauns don't exit, and they'll continue to NOT EXIST until PROVEN otherwise. Should my comment be mocked too? Cause the "nose knows"?
BrettC
not rated yet Dec 14, 2012
Maybe they were intended as markers for a structure that was never built.
xoddam
5 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2012
"These drawings had to be done from above, not at ground level, imo. Laser beams?"

No, Trigonometry.
katesisco
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2012
Nawangsari made an important point. It seems to me there is an important component overlooked here -- something to do with biophotonic emission. there are after all the Sudbury Hill and other monuments that make no sense unless you consider these have to do with 'recharging the Earth.'
The author site shows the entire diagram and the lines get closer together (something like how electromagnetic waves in the spectrum do) and end spiraling IN. Note that UV is 380 on the E/M specturm --can the reduction in the separation of the lines be compared the the reduction of the spectrum as it approaches 380?