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The Nazca lines. A new perspective on their origin and meaning
The lines and figures constructed on the desert surface (geoglyphs) near Nazca are analyzed in terms of the religious concepts, the economic practices, and the ecological situation found in the region. Previous theories to explain the geoglyphs are briefly examined. Ethnographic and historical data are then presented, which demonstrate that worship of mountains and other water sources played a dominant role in Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. Many of the straight lines would likely have served as sacred paths to the places where rituals for fertility were performed, hence they would not have been pointing at anything on the horizon--whether in the sky (the sun and stars) or on land (such as the mountains). The large triangles and rectangles are interpreted as having been sacred areas in which fertility rites were carried out. The various figures would have been formed to invoke water/fertility and meant to have been observed by deities viewing them from the air, as weather deities have done in the past and continue to do so in traditional communities throughout the Andes. Comparative data relating to geoglyphs in other areas of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile are presented demonstrating that many geoglyphs were constructed in a vast region of western South America over two millennia ago and that straight lines continued to be used in some areas until modern times. Taken together, the archaeological, historical, and ethnographic information is utilized in the development of a theory to explain the lines and figures as part of religious practices designed primarily to ensure the availability of water and the fertility of crops.