ArticlePDF Available

The Nazca lines. A new perspective on their origin and meaning

Authors:

Abstract

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.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... Other areas of high geoglyph concentration such like the Palpa region are open for archaeological research. There are numerous hypotheses and speculations about the meaning of the 'Nasca lines', among them their function as astronomical calendars 5 or as pathways for religious ceremonies 6 . The lack of a good documentation, however, has so far made it difficult to test recent hypotheses against archaeological data 7 . ...
Chapter
Full-text available
The Nasca lines in southern Peru are among the world’s greatest archaeological enigmas. Thousands of geometric and biomorphic figures, also known as geoglyphs, cover the desert pampas between Nasca and Palpa. Their interpretation, which is still a matter of considerable debate, depends on accurate dating. Based on ceramic surface finds, the geoglyphs are generally assigned to the Nasca culture. However, there is so far no reliable chronometric dating to back this assumption, and the archaeological context of the geoglyphs is poorly known. Here we report on a recent interdisciplinary investigation of a geoglyph complex near Palpa that shed new light on geoglyph dating, construction, and context. High resolution magnetometry, conducted for the first time on geoglyph sites, revealed obliterated geoglyphs as well as hitherto unknown features beneath the surface. A wooden tool, the first of its kind, was found in situ on a line. It presumably served to clear the geoglyphs. AMS 14C dating of wooden objects uncovered during controlled excavations of structures on the geoglyphs confirmed a period of usage between 100 BC and AD 650. Dating of this tool however revealed a usage in the late intermediate period 1282 – 1328 AD.
... In the Bolivian Altiplano, it is thought that the so-called Sajama lines were originally associated with sacred places and mountain worship. This interpretation has been backed by ethnographic documentation (Morrison 1978;Reinhard 1996). The enigmatic geoglyphs of the Mojave Desert, in the southwestern United States, were interpreted as "rites of passage" in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through ethnographic accounts and ceremonies (Johnson 1985). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This updated entry in the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology is a comprehensive synthesis of geoglyphs from a wordwide perspective.
... The geoglyphs of Nazca ( Aveni, 1986Aveni, , 2000Reinhard, 1985;Silverman and Browne, 1991), which can stretch for kilometers and often clearly visible from space, are by far the most notable examples of geoglyphs in South America They were created within a sociopolitical context of elites orchestrated line buildings that were associated with processionals, feasts, and other ritual events ( Conlee, 2003;Vaughn, 2005). The Nazca lines, however, are not the only examples available in the region. ...
Article
With the exception of the Nazca Lines, geoglyphs in the Andes have tended to be studied without regard to their position in the landscape. The objective of the Quilcapampa Geoglyph Survey is to better contextualize rock art by identifying and then mapping areas of high concentration of geoglyphs on the broad pampa surrounding the middle Sihuas Valley in southern Peru. This paper outlines our workflow that combines World View 2 satellite images, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photography, and pedestrian survey to rapidly assess a 250 km² region. Aided by previous surface survey, the satellite imagery effectively located areas of high concentration of geoglyphs that could then be flown over by the UAV whose high resolution camera allows for the capture of features and details not readily identifiable via satellite. The documentation of Sihuas' geoglyphs aids both academic and conservation efforts in this region of Peru.
... With respect to the function and significance of the geoglyphs, scholars have proposed various theories about aspects of these features (Aveni 1986(Aveni , 1990Hawkins 1969;Kosok and Reiche 1949;Mejía Xesspe 1940;Morrison 1978;Reiche 1968; Reinhard 1986Reinhard , 1988. Although it is not the main point of this report, we consider that one of the main problems with this type of investigation is the attempt to assign a single cause to what are clearly complex cultural phenomena, as is the case with the Nasca culture. ...
Book
Full-text available
La obra de Gavin Menzies, que con acierto tituló 1421: El año en que China descubrió el mundo, tiene seguidores y detractores; algo muy común en trabajos que hacen saltar por los aires concepciones arraigadas en una parte de la documentación tenida por cierta y que ahora, con nuevas contribuciones, sacan a la luz los resultados de la sexta expedición comandada por Zheng He, junto con almirantes Zhou Man, Hong Bao, Zhou Wen y Yang Qing entre 1421-1423. Plenamente consciente de la trascendencia de su investigación, el propio autor considera: Mis investigaciones confirmaron que, de hecho, varias flotas chinas habían realizado viajes de exploración en los primeros días del siglo XV. El último y más importante de ellos ⎯cuatro flotas que integraban una inmensa armada⎯ partió a principios de 1421. Los últimos barcos supervivientes regresaron a China en el verano y el otoño de 1423. No existía ningún registro que indicara por dónde habían viajado en los años transcurridos, pero los mapas mostraban que no solo habían doblado el cabo de Buena Esperanza y atravesado el Atlántico para cartografiar las islas que yo había visto en el mapa de Pizzigano de 1424, sino que también habían pasado a explorar la Antártida y el Ártico, América del Norte y del Sur, y habían cruzado el Pacifico hasta Australia. Habían resuelto el problema del cálculo de la latitud y la longitud, y habían cartografiado la tierra y el firmamento con igual precisión. Lo anterior sintetiza el núcleo central de esta obra: cumplir el mandato del emperador Zhu Di (1360-1424) para alcanzar una certidumbre total del globo terráqueo mediante la cartografía y así ampliar el conocimiento del mundo como parte de la propia política abierta en esta etapa de la dinastía Ming.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa in southern Peru are considered one of the great mysteries of archaeology. Thousands of lines, cleared fields and figures were carved on flat plateaus in the desert, the so-called pampas, during the Paracas and Nasca cultures (800 BC - 650 AD). Ever since the first report in 1927 by Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía, serious archaeological investigations have by far been outnumbered by unscientific interpretations. The Geoglyphs of Palpa, in the northern Nasca basin, have been studied in more detail by archaeological research since 1997 by the Nasca-Palpa Project. In the frame of the research project supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF in the year 2003 for the fi rst time it was possible to apply geophysical prospecting methods in the Pampa of Peru. Beside aerial archaeology magnetometry is the most suitable none destructive prospecting tool to receive information from so far unknown structures beneath these trapezoidal areas. Here we report on the results of magnetic prospecting at three large trapezoids around the village Palpa. The result is a so-called “magnetic view” beneath the ground. Magnetic pictures of the total Earth's magnetic fi eld measurements are in the fi rst sight dominated by the remanent magnetization of lightning strokes, which clearly demonstrates a climate change in the past. Further archaeological and geophysical analysis however revealed also anomalies which can be ascribed to former lines which are now anymore visible by aerial archaeological or other methods. Moreover other anomalies can be ascribed to traces of buildings, postholes, pits or other man-made structures.
Article
Full-text available
In this publication about rock art I tentatively propose that some Andean (rock) art images of zoomorphs and anthropomorphs may hold an invisible object. I also argue that those images are not unfinished and not incomplete.
Chapter
Archaeologists and scholars have long debated the purpose of the Nasca lines. During the last two decades, significant advances in the understanding of cultural and functional aspects of geoglyphs have been achieved. This chapter deals with the state of the art of studies, research, and field activities in various areas of the Nasca territory. In particular, the technical aspects related to the execution of the geoglyphs and dating issues are discussed. The chapter ends with reprise of the debate on the functions and significance of the Nasca lines from the Spaniard chroniclers to the most recent investigations, oscillating from calendrical/astronomical theories to approaches closer to the Andean model.
Article
Full-text available
Previous research has revealed that Sirius and Hephaistos myths and legends were strongly present in Bronze Age Mediterranean communities via an interrelated cultural network amongst various cultures and societies (Laoupi, 2006a & b; Laoupi, 2011). The aim of the present monograph is to deepen this research, enrich it with the latest evidence and cover broader geographical and chronological boundaries. The Sirius, Moon and Venus cults came from the Paleolithic Times amazingly enriched by their “journey” into the human psyche starring at the Cosmos. Especially, Sirius cult was a pivotal cult of the Pelasgian substratum coming from Neolithic and late Paleolithic Times.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.