Nazca Lines - lines for aliens ?

Few archaeological enigmas have excited so much fanciful speculation as the lines and figures etched into the desert near Nazca in southern Peru. Few of the theories are scientifically tenable, and many are pure fantasy.

However, behind the speculation lies a unique cultural phenomenon that for almost a century has attracted the attention of scientists and archaeologists alike.The coastal strip of southern Peru, which is in effect the northern extension of the Atacama desert in Chile, is one of the most arid and desolate regions of the world. The landscape here comprises a series of flat desert plains, or pampas, separated by oasis-like river valleys. Measurable rainfall occurs on average only once in several years.

Rivers are dry for much of the year, and water is plentiful lor a short period only, when the seasonal melt-water flows down from the snow-capped Andes to the east. The small town of Nasca. some four hundred kilometers south of Lima, is situated in such a valley. A distinctive culture flourished here between the first and sixth centuries C.E., leaving an abundant archaeological record including a fine and distinctive style of pottery, brightly colorful and richly decorated. During the centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, the people who lived in this area also seem 10 have channeled considerable efforts into etching monumental drawings on the desert. The Nazca pampa, an arid plain to the north of the town, covers an area of some two hundred square kilometers (about eighty square miles) and is covered in a vast array of long, straight lines, rectangles and trapezoids, labyrinths and spirals.

The greatest concentration of markings is in the northern corner, where a number of large stylized bird and animal figures, as well as less readily identifiable forms, are also found. The overall impression, as viewed from one of the many light aircraft that carry tourists over the plain, is one of a giantsketchpad, much scribbled upon.The desert surface here is composed of black ferrous oxide pebbles darkened by oxidation over many centuries. By simply brushing them aside, a bright yellow sandy soil is revealed beneath. This means that the desert markings, often termed geoglyphs, are highly susceptible to modern damage.

Merely walking on the pampa is often enough to leave conspicuous footprints, which, owing to the lack of precipitation, will endure almost indefinitely. Worse still, many of the ancient lines and figures are scarred by deep ruts created by cars and even large commercial vehicles, which drive across the open desert in order to avoid paying highway tolls. On the other hand, there is no great mystery about how the Nazca geoglyphs were created, at least in principle. Armed with nothing more than a piece of string and a few-sighting poles, a group of six volunteers was able to produce a ten-meter(thirty-foot-) long straight line ending in a spiral on a nearby pampa in less than ninety minutes.Yet the Nazca markings were more than casual doodles. Some lines run for several kilometers, remaining dead straight even where they pass over small hills and dips.The figures , generally too large for what they are when standing close by , must have constructed by scaling up from a template of manageable size.

The enigma lies not in how the etchings were lines. A few visits to the pampa convinced Maria that the lines were directed toward horizon directions where the sun, moon, or stars appeared and disappeared; solving the riddle of the mathematical and astronomical meaning of the lines and figures subsequently became her mission in life. She began to visit the pampa regularly, living the life of a recluse, spending hours, days, and weeks walking on the desert and making measurements. Despite Reiche's unremitting devotion to the investigation of the lines, which lasted for the rest of her life (she died in I998, aged ninety-five), it produced precious little published hard data. Reiche's book Mystery on the Desert, which has run to several editions, concentrates mainly on descriptive material.

In 1968, the astronomer Gerald Hawkins, who had proposed that Stonehenge in England was an astronomical observatory or computer, visited the pampa and carried out a statistical examination of the line orientations. His conclusion,which came as a surprise for many, was that they had no astronomical significance whatsoever, beyond what might be expected by chance. Although very different, both these approaches failed in one fundamental respect: they were divorced from the cultural context. Each, in its different way, was an intellectual exercise dictated by Western concepts of science and mathematics but unrelated to the rich cultural traditions of pre-Columbian America.
Ancient astronomy: an encyclopedia of cosmologies and myth De Clive L. N. Ruggles


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