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Some Giant Geoglyphs in Jordan are Older than the World Famous Nazca Lines

Some Giant Geoglyphs in Jordan are Older than the World Famous Nazca Lines


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Despite the difficulty in discerning the finished product of the giant designs from earth, archaeologists have recently announced that at least some of the great “works of old men” (as the Bedouin called them in 1927) of the Middle East are significantly older than the famous Nazca Lines of Peru. They also have shown that one cluster of the wheels may be linked to astronomical knowledge in the past, and some of the geoglyphs were likely related to burials, but the purpose of many of the designs remains uncertain.

Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that at least two of the giant “wheels” from Wadi Al Qattafi and the Wisad Pools, in the Black Desert of Jordan are at least 8,500 years old – making them older then the famous Nazca Lines in Peru by about 6,000 years. Livescience reports that by using optically stimulated luminescence ( OSL), the archaeologists were able to show not only the date of creation of the two wheels, but also that one of them was repaired about 5,500 years ago.

The two “wheels” of the Black Desert that were created 8,500 years ago. ( Google)

The research, soon to be published in the journal Antiquity, demonstrates that at the time of the creation of these two wheels the climate of the Black Desert would have been very different, making life in the area easier. Archaeological evidence for their claim came in the form of "Charcoal from deciduous oak and tamarisk [a shrub that] were recovered from two hearths in one building dated to ca. 6,500 BC."

Furthermore, Discovery News has reported that the recent study suggests that at least some of the geoglyphs are related to an astronomical interest by the ancient inhabitants. Specifically, they have found importance in one group of designs in the Azraq Oasis, as “The majority of the spokes of the wheels in that cluster are oriented for some reason to stretch in a SE-NW direction - where the sun rises during the winter solstice.” This may be no more than an educated “hunch” however, as other geoglyphs in the area do not show apparent “archaeoastronomical information.”

  • The Works of Old Men: Geoglyphs of the Middle East
  • Ten Amazing and Mysterious Geoglyphs from the Ancient World
  • Ancient Geoglyphs of Kazakhstan: The Mysterious Markings in Danger of Destruction

The two wheels and the cluster make up just a small section of the famous “Works of Old Men” that cross the Arabia region – “from Syria across Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Yemen” according to the researchers from the current study.

The geoglyphs of the Middle East were first spotted in 1927 by RAF Flight Lt. Percy Maitland, while he was flying an airmail route over Jordan. The shapes of the designs vary, and, as it was written by Ancient Origins in 2014:

Some of the wheel-shaped structures are clustered closer together, while others appear to be solitary. Some structures have more of a rectangular shape, while many of them are round. Some of the circular structures contain two spokes that form a bar…The wheels are sometimes found on top of the kites.

A “kite” geoglyph in Jordan. ( Google)

The purpose of the geoglyphs probably varied according to their location and/or design. Gary Rollefson, co-director of the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project, says that “The presence of cairns suggests some association with burials, since that is often the way of treating people once they died.” However, he was also quick to add that “there are other wheels where cairns are entirely lacking, pointing to a different possible use.”

Regarding the construction of the geoglyphs, it is evident that quality also differs from one structure to the next. Speaking of the two wheels in the Black Desert, Rollefson said that they “are simple in form and not very rigidly made, according to geometric standards. They contrast sharply with some other wheels that appear to have been set out with almost as much attention to detail as the Nazca Lines.” The precision of the other wheels, may have been due to the use of a long rope and a stake.

More information on the two wheels of the Black Desert should be forthcoming, as Rollefson told the Jordan Times that he plans to return to “Wadi Al Qattafi in 2016, then back to Wisad in 2017-2019.”

  • The puzzling case of the Atacama Giant
  • Twenty Four more Ancient Geoglyphs Discovered in Nazca, Peru
  • The Mysterious Marree Man of Outback Australia: Largest Geoglyph in the World

In contrast to the designs located further north, David Kennedy, co-director of the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) has said that the forms in Saudi Arabia and Yemen “tend to be small and have only one or two bars instead of spokes. Some of the “wheels” are actually shaped like squares, rectangles or triangles.” The APAAME have also noted kites and interconnecting walls of stones, which he has dubbed as “gates.”

Some of the geoglyphs found in Saudi Arabia. ( Google Earth )

APAAME are currently unable to conduct on-site or aerial imaging research of the “wheels” in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, thus they are studying aerial images from the 20th century and free satellite imaging from Google Earth and Bing for now.

Featured Image: Google Image of some of the “wheel” geoglyphs found in the Azraq Oasis of Jordan.

Source: Google Earth

By Alicia McDermott


The Most Mysterious Geoglyphs Around The Globe

Mysterious geoglyphs, large motifs etched onto landscape, are found in isolated places throughout the world and some are thousands of years old.

What is Geoglyph

A geoglyph is a large design or motif (generally longer than 4 metres) produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, live trees, gravel, or earth.

It is believed these enormous ground drawings have been created by ancient cultures in the distant past. Most of them can only be viewed from the air. Who was the intended audience for these geoglyphs if they were created at a time before air travels possible?

Who built them and why remains a mystery, purposes attributed to them are almost as varied as their shapes and locations.

Here’s our list of 11 of most mysterious geoglyphs that can only be spied from the air.

1 – Nazca Lines, Peru

The Nazca Lines (sometimes spelled Nasca Lines) are hundreds of geoglyphs, abstract and figural art etched into part of the several hundred square kilometers of the Nazca Pampa landscape called the Pampa de San José in coastal northern Peru.

It is believed they were created sometime between 200 B.C. and 500 A.D.

They consist of hundreds of figures, many of which depict animals such as hummingbirds, sharks, monkeys, spiders, orcas, lizards and even an alleged “spaceman.”

2 – The Badlands Guardian, Canada

The Badlands’ Guardian is near Medicine Hat in the south-east of Alberta and not far from the border with the USA. The location of the geological wonder is very remote, in an area that has been traditionally the home of the Siska First Nation People, often known as the Blackfoot tribes.

The geological wonder, the Guardian of the Badlands was only uncovered in recent years and purely by chance. It is a geographical feature that, when seen from the air, resembles the face of an indigenous person in profile. The Indian head is looking westward and it is very large and even bigger than the heads on Mount Rushmore. It has the distinctive features of a First Nations male and it appears to be wearing traditional headwear, a feather headdress, which is synonymous with Aboriginal culture.

The geological feature was produced several hundred years ago or more, probably because a fierce storm unleashed flooding and winds that eroded the clayey soil and sedimentary rocks. The erosion left gullies and channels that have by complete chance formed the image of the Indian head if seen from a great height. No one believes that the feature was created by humans, but it is the result of natural processes.

The feature was discovered during the Google Earth project when they used satellite imagery and reproduced them in 3-D which led to the identification of the natural world. The Guardian is regarded as one of Google Earth’s most remarkable finds.

3 – Marree Man, Australia

The Marree Man is the second largest geoglyph in the world. It depicts an indigenous man hunting birds or wallabies with a throwing stick.

The Marree Man was first noticed on June 26 of 1998 by a pilot who was flying over the remote region. It has been determined that geoglyph was created in modern times. Nevertheless, its origin, meaning and purpose remain a mystery.

4 – Paracas Candelabra, Peru

This stunning geoglyph can be found on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula at Pisco Bay in Peru, and is believed to date to around 200 B.C . Its purpose and meaning are unknown, though speculative theories abound.

Local legend suggests it represents the lightning rod or staff of the god Viracocha, who was worshipped throughout South America. But others have suggested it could have been constructed as a sign to sailors, or even as a symbolic representation of a hallucinogenic plant called Jimson weed.

5 – Works of the Old Men, Arabian Peninsula

Hundreds of thousands of geoglyphs are scattered across Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan depicting an array of “wheels,” among other motifs. Dubbed the “Works of the Old Men,” the features are believed by some to be several thousand years old, which would make them far older than the more famous Nazca Lines.

It still remains unknown: When were they built? And why?

6 – Atacama Geoglyphs, Chile

The Atacama Geoglyphs are located in the coastal desert of Chile. There were more than 5,000 geoglyphs built between 600-1500 CE, made by moving around the dark desert pavement. In addition to figural art including llamas, lizards, dolphins, monkeys, humans, eagles, and rheas, the Atacama glyphs include circles, concentric circles, circles with dots, rectangles, diamonds, arrows, and crosses.

Atacama Giant

The Atacama Giant (119 meters high) is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world. It is believed to represent a deity for the local inhabitants who created it between A.D. 1000 and 1400. But the figure has also been the subject of wild theories about its meaning that involve conjectures about alien visitations.

7 – Russian ‘Moose’ Geoglyph, Russia

The stone structure, located near Lake Zyuratkul north of the Kazakhstan border, features an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers.

The 900ft “animal”, which was discovered in 2011, is covered by a layer of soil and faces north on the Zyuratkul ridge.

The style of the stone-working, called lithic chipping, dates to the Neolithic and Eneolithic period 6,000 to 3,000 years BC. If that is correct, it would make the moose geoglyph much older than Peru’s Nazca Lines, the earliest of which were created around 500 BC.

8 – Amazonian Geoglyphs, Brazil

Since the 1970s, deforestation has revealed a complex network of mysterious ancient geoglyphs in the Amazon basin, possibly built by a lost Pre-Columbian civilization.

If this is true, it could completely rewrite the book on ancient cultures and population density of prehistoric South America.

9 – Blythe Intaglios, USA

These remarkable intaglios (anthropomorphic geoglyphs) are found near Blythe, Calif., in the Colorado Desert, along the Colorado River. Created simply by scraping away layers of darker rocks to reveal the lighter rocks beneath, the figures have remained preserved over the millennia thanks to the dryness of the region.

Believed to have been originally created by the Mojave and Quechan Indians around A.D. 1000, the figures weren’t discovered until 1932, when a pilot happened to look down and notice them.

10 – Uffington White Horse, UK

This highly stylized prehistoric hill figure, dubbed the Uffington White Horse , is in the county of Oxfordshire, England. Scholars suggest the feature, which is formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk, was probably first created during the Bronze Age between 1200 B.C. and 800 B.C.

Though it is widely believed to depict a horse, there are some who claim it more closely resembles a big cat of some kind, which would be a mystery indeed, as there are no big cats that roam Great Britain.

11 – Big Horn Medicine Wheel of Wyoming, USA

A mysterious pattern of stones sits at the summit of Medicine Mountain, nearly 10,000 feet above the Bighorn Range in Wyoming. Covered by heavy snows for most of the year, the stone configuration reveals itself and its purpose only in the summer months.

It is believed the geoglyph was built about 1300 AD . The stones are arranged in the shape of a wheel, 80 feet across and with 28 spokes emanating from a central cairn.

Known as medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, these special structures have been built by American Indians for centuries. With uses ranging from the ritual to the astronomical, the medicine wheel has been appropriated over time by New Age spiritualists, Wiccans, and Pagans.


Some Giant Geoglyphs in Jordan are Older than the World Famous Nazca Lines - History

Jhony Islas/AP A 2,000-year-old giant etching in the shape of a cat was found at the famous Nazca Lines site in Peru.

Aside from Machu Picchu, the ancient Nazca Lines are Peru’s largest tourist attraction. A collection of larger-than-life geoglyphs that were etched into the ground by Indigenous people thousands of years ago, the Nazca Lines have just gained a new attraction.

According to CNN, a massive etching of a feline was recently discovered during maintenance work at the Nazca Lines, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The newly uncovered carving, which stretches over 121 feet long on a hillside plateau, is made-up of a pair of carved out eyes, pointy ears, and a large tail.

“Representations of this type of feline are frequently found in the iconography of ceramics and textiles in the Paracas society,” the country’s Ministry of Culture wrote in a statement, a reference to the ancient South American culture that once dominated the region.

Researchers excavated the geoglyph during the site’s closure amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The newly found cat carving was created sometime between 200 B.C. to 100 B.C. during the late Paracas period in what is modern-day southern Peru.

Jhony Islas/AP The massive geoglyph was unearthed during maintenance work at the Nazca Lines, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cat carving is believed to be older than any of the prehistoric geoglyphs previously unearthed at the site. It is also the largest animal depiction unearthed there so far.

The Nazca Lines were created by ancient Peruvians, scraping the top layer of black rock and gravel from the ground to reveal a bed of rock that was much lighter in color.

This resulted in hundreds of giant carvings which, when observed from above, clearly form depictions of various animals, plants, birds, and intricate abstract designs.

The ancient geoglyphs of the Nazca Lines cover roughly 174 square miles of land and are believed to have been created between 100 BC to 700 AD.

They were finally brought to light thousands of years later during the 1920s when Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe uncovered the striking depictions carved into the rocky landscape of the region. As air travel became more prevalent in the 1930s, even more lines were discovered.

In recent years, scientists began to use new technology to uncover a trove of ancient etchings throughout the landscape. In 2019, a group of Japanese researchers successfully identified more than 140 new designs among the Nazca Lines using high-resolution 3D data to uncover etchings that were still hidden.

The massive cat carving is the latest finding at the mysterious Nazca Lines site. It’s still unclear what exactly these giant etchings were meant to be used for though some experts suspect they served as travel markers.

Further studies on the site will hopefully help archaeologists better understand these enigmatic geoglyphs, and uncover their true purpose and meaning.

Masaki Eda
Hundreds of geoglyphs have been excavated as part of the ancient Nazca Lines including this hummingbird depiction.

As UNESCO describes these ancient drawings:

“They are the most outstanding group of geoglyphs anywhere in the world and are unmatched in its extent, magnitude, quantity, size, diversity and ancient tradition to any similar work in the world. The concentration and juxtaposition of the lines, as well as their cultural continuity, demonstrate that this was an important and long-lasting activity, lasting approximately one thousand years.”

For now, the Nazca Lines site will remain closed off to visitors. The site is normally restricted from the public because of the fragile nature of the carvings and even high-ranking government officials are reportedly forbidden to walk around the site without special authorization.

The only way to see these mesmerizing images is by overhead plane tours or by viewing them from designated vantage points.

“The figure was barely visible and was about to disappear because it is situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion,” the Ministry of Culture said in its statement.

Luckily, this image was found before it could be eroded away, providing a new window into an ancient culture that scientists have yet to fully understand.

“It’s quite striking that we’re still finding new figures,” Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca Lines, told Spanish news agency Efe, “but we also know that there are more to be found.”

Next, learn why some people believe ancient Sumerians were visited by extraterrestrial beings and go inside the unsolved mystery of the Georgia Guidestones, America’s very own stonehenge.


The Nazca lines of Jordan: Mysterious geoglyphs created by an ancient civilization 8500 years ago

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The mysterious wheel-shaped geoglyphs in Jordan could date back as far as 6500 BC according to archeological studies. This means that these geoglyphs are at least 6,000 years older compared to the more famous ‘Nazca lines’ in Peru. While researchers are still not one hundred percent certain as to what their exact purpose was, they believe the enigmatic ‘wheels’ which were drawn into the black desert of Jordan could have been used as celestial observatories and even burial grounds.

According to Professor Gary Rollefson from the Whitman College in Walla Walla, the different wheels in Jordan likely had different uses.

‘The presence of cairns suggests some association with burials since that is often the way of treating people once they died,’ Professor Rollefson said.

Just as the Nazca lines in Peru, the mysterious geoglyphs in Jordan can only be appreciated from the air. Researchers still cannot explain why these giant wheels were built to be almost invisible from the ground.

The enigmatic circles in Jordan were first encountered by pilots during World War I. RAF Flight Lt. Percy Maitland wrote about the enigmatic features in the desert in an article for the journal Antiquity in 1927.

According to Lt. Percy Maitland t the Bedouin called the structures “works of the old men,” a name still sometimes used by modern-day researchers. Researchers were able to date the mysterious geoglyphs using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) which is used to determine how long ago minerals were last exposed to daylight, measuring the energy of photons being released.

According to archaeological study, the mysterious geoglyphs in the Jordanian desert demonstrate accurate geometric patterns which extend up to several kilometers. No one has been able to understand how ancient mankind created these figures over 8000 years ago, a time which according to mainstream scholars, people were not evolved enough to create such geometric patterns. 8000 years ago the climate of the Middle East was much wetter and the surrounding landscape was different from what we see today.

According to writings of archaeologists in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the works “demonstrate specific geometric patterns and extend from a few tens of meters up to several kilometers, evoking parallels to the well-known system of geometric lines of Nazca, Peru.”

“They occur throughout the entire Arabia region, from Syria across Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Yemen,” wrote the researchers. “The most startling thing about the ‘Works’ is that they are difficult to identify from the ground. This stands in contrast to their apparent visibility from the air.”

According to Professor David Kennedy, from the University of Western Australia, ‘People have probably walked over them, walked past them, for centuries, millennia, without having any clear idea what the shape was.’


Older Than Nazca: Mysterious Rock Lines Marked Way to Ancient Peru Fairs

New rock lines discovered in Peru predate the famous Nazca Lines by centuries and likely once marked the site of ancient fairs, researchers say.

The lines were created by people of the Paracas, a civilization that arose around 800 B.C. in what is now Peru. The Paracas culture predated the Nazca culture, which came onto the scene around 100 B.C. The Nazca people are famous for their fantastic geoglyphs, or rock lines, built in the shapes of monkeys, birds and other animals.

The new lines date to around 300 B.C., making them at least 300 years older than the oldest Nazca lines, said Charles Stanish, the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who reported the new find today (May 5) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"They used the lines in a different way than the Nazca," Stanish told Live Science. "They basically created these areas of highly ritualized processions and activities that were not settled permanently." [See Images of Ancient 'Nazca' Lines & Fair Site]

The closest European analog, Stanish said, would be the medieval fairs that brought visitors from far and wide.

Ancient fairs

Stanish and his team discovered the lines in the Chinca Valley, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Lima, Peru. The area has a history of pre-European-contact settlements stretching from at least 800 B.C. to the 1500s A.D.

Archaeological surveys revealed large, ancient mounds in the valley. Over three field seasons, Stanish and his colleagues mapped these mounds, as well as nearby rock lines associated with each mound. They found 71 geoglyph lines or segments, 353 rock cairns, rocks forming circles or rectangles, and one point at which a series of lines converged in a circle of rays. The researchers also excavated one cluster of man-made mounds.

The excavations and mapping revealed a carefully built environment. Some long lines marked the spot where the sun would have set during the June solstice (the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). Two U-shaped mounds also pointed toward the June solstice sunset, and the largest platform mound on the site lined up with the solstice as well. These lines and mounds probably served as a way to mark time during festivals, Stanish said.

Some lines are set out to frame pyramid structures, Stanish said. The lines are parallel, but because parallel lines seem to converge with distance, these framing lines appear to point directly at pyramids. Other lines run parallel to roads that are still used today, Stanish said.

"I don't think people needed the signposts, but it was more kind of a ritualized thing, where you come down and everything's prepared," he said.

Andean trade

The desert lines and mounds are about 9 miles (15 km) from settlements near the coast. Stanish and his colleagues suspect that the ancient "fairgrounds" were built on land that was useless for farming and were intended to attract tradespeople and buyers from the coast and the Andes highlands.

The mounds, pyramids and lines were likely the ancient version of neon signs, Stanish explained: "We're expending time and effort and resources to make our place bigger and better," he said, explaining the mindset of those who created the constructions. The various settlements on the coast probably competed to attract the most participants to their own fairs.

To confirm this notion, the researchers plan to excavate pyramids near the coast, looking for artifacts that would link settlements to the desert lines and mounds.

The discovery of these older rock lines emphasizes the geoglyphs had more than one function, Stanish said. People have long looked for "the" reason for the Nazca lines, but it's more accurate to think of the lines like multi-purpose technology, he said.

"The lines are effectively a social technology," Stanish said. "They're using it for certain purposes. Some people have said the lines point out sacred mountains. Sure, why not? The lines [might] point out sacred pyramids. Why not? The lines could [also] be used to point out processions," Stanish said of both the Nazca and Peru lines.

In that way, Stanish said, the lines are like pottery: one invention used for multiple purposes.

"Native Americans in this part of the world were extremely ingenious," he said.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Ten Amazing And Mysterious Geoglyphs From The Ancient World

Yet, scattered across the globe are thousands of other geoglyphs that are equally as impressive. The earth carvings remain one of archaeology’s greatest mysteries. Despite a plethora of research on these amazing creations, the purpose of geoglyphs continues to elude researchers and remains a matter of conjecture. Some scientists believe they are linked to the heavens, representing constellations in the night sky. Other experts believe that the lines played a role in pilgrimage, with one walking across them to reach a sacred place. Yet another idea is that the lines are connected with water, something vital to life yet hard to get in the desert. Here we examine ten alluring geoglyphs from across the planet.

Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, some 400 km south of Lima, the geoglyphs of Nazca cover an incredible 450 km2. They are among archaeology’s greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometres long. The startling feature of the Nazca geoglyphs is that they can only really be appreciated from the air, raising questions about how and why they were created. The Nazca lines number in their thousands and the vast majority of them date from 200 BC to 500 AD, to a time when a people referred to as the Nazca inhabited the region. The earliest lines, created with piled up stones, date as far back as 500 BC. Although the lines can in fact be seen from the ground, there is nothing remotely exciting about seeing them from this perspective. However, from the air, their true beauty and the wonders of their creation can be realised. Despite a plethora of research on these amazing creations, the purpose of the lines continues to elude researchers and remains a matter of conjecture. Some scientists believe they are linked to the heavens with some representing constellations in the night sky. However, research has found that there are just as many lines not related to constellations as those that are, meaning that this theory cannot provide a complete explanation. Other experts believe that the lines played a role in pilgrimage, with one walking across them to reach a sacred place such as Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids. Yet another idea is that the lines are connected with water, something vital to life yet hard to get in the desert, and may have played a part in water-based rituals. However, the fact the lines have remained enigmatic have promoted alternative theorists to float ideas about extraterrestrial communication or ‘messages to the gods’.

The geoglyphs of the Atacama Desert in South America are less familiar than the world-renowned Nazca lines, yet they are far more numerous in number, more varied in style, and cover a much larger area. One of the most intriguing and controversial of the Atacama desert geoglyphs is the so-called Atacama Giant, which continues to stir debate regarding its true meaning and interpretation. The Atacama Giant is an anthropomorphic geoglyph measuring 119 metres in height, making it the largest known geoglyph in the world. It is characterized by a square head and highly stylized long legs. Four lines can be seen coming out from the top of the giant’s head, as well as on each side of its head. There has been no shortage of explanations and theories to account for the strange features of this enormous geoglyph. According to one interpretation, it was a sort of astronomical calendar that indicated the movement of the moon. With this knowledge, it is said that the day, the crop cycle, and the seasons could be calculated. Another interpretation maintains that the Atacama Giant represents a deity worshipped by the local population. Other theories suggest extra-terrestrial visitations, marking of a pilgrimage route, or that it reflects an ancient type of language. Although the function of the geoglyphs of the Atacama Desert still remain a mystery, it is undeniable that they held great importance to the people who lived in the region. It is hoped that the geoglyphs will be preserved for future generations, and that further research may one day uncover their secrets.

Archaeologists are calling them the Nazca lines of Kazakhstan – more than 50 giant geoglyphs formed with earthen mounds and timber found stretched across the landscape in northern Kazakhstan. They are designed in a variety of geometric shapes, including crosses, squares, rings, and even a swastika, an ancient symbol that has been in use for at least 12,000 years. The geoglyphs, which are very difficult to see on the ground, were first spotted on Google Earth. Since then, a team of archaeologists from Kazakhstan and Lithuania, have investigated the giant structures using aerial photography and ground-penetrating radar. Their results revealed a wide variety of shapes ranging from 90 to 400 metres in diameter, mostly made of earthen mounds, but one – the swastika – was made using timber. Researchers have not yet dated the structures but their characteristics suggest they are around 2,000 years old. “As of today, we can say only one thing — the geoglyphs were built by ancient people. By whom and for what purpose, remains a mystery,” said archaeologists Irina Shevnina and Andrew Logvin, of Kostanay University, in an email to Live Science.

A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed the discovery of a complex set of geoglyphs constructed by the mysterious Paracas people of Peru. The archaeological features, which date back 2,300 years, were found to be aligned to the sunset during the winter solstice, and are believed to have been created to mark ceremonial mounds and residential sites. Charles Stanish, the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, and his team, found 71 geoglyph lines or segments, 353 rock cairns, rocks forming circles or rectangles, two U-shaped mounds, and one point at which a series of lines converged in a circle of rays. Many of the archaeological features were found to have astronomical alignments, others point to special places in the landscape, like some of the ancient pyramids in the region. The research team hypothesised that the lines served diverse purposes – some appear to have marked time, others may have attracted participants to attend important events, and yet others could have pointed the way to sacred structures.

Stretching from Syria to Saudi Arabia, thousands of ancient geoglyphs built from stone stretch across the desert plains. Known as the “works of old men”, some display a kite-like structure while others have wheel-like designs. Similar to the Nazca Lines of Peru, they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with much diversity between structures. The geoglyphs are virtually invisible to those on the ground, but can be easily discerned by those flying overhead. The local Bedouins refer to them as the “works of old men” but have been unable to provide further insights into their creators.

Some of the circular structures contain two spokes that form a bar pointing in the same direction in which the sun rises and sets, while others contain spokes that do not appear to have any astrological meaning. It is believed that one type of structure, referred to as a “kite”, was actually used as part of a system for hunting. The long stone walls form a wide open area, which then funnels into a smaller, enclosed area. Wild animals would funnel from the larger area through the neck into the narrow area which was called the “killing floor.” This would make it easier to hunt wild animals, as their movement would be constricted once they reached the killing floor. There are an estimated 2000 kite structures across the deserts of Syria, Jordan, Southern Israel and Saudi Arabia illustrating that this hunting method must have been widely used.

Wari geoglyph similar to Nazca lines found in Peru

Archaeologists recently carrying out excavations in Arequipa in southern Peru were surprised to find a large geoglyph which resembles the famous Nazca lines. The massive geoglyph is the first of its kind discovered in the region. It has been linked to the pre-Inca Wari culture (1200-1300 AD), although it is not clear how the researchers reached this conclusion. The geoglyph, which measures 60 metres by 40 metres, consists of a large rectangular image with geometric shapes and lines within it. If indeed the newly-discovered geoglyph was created by the Wari people, the finding may serve to shed new light on their cultural practices, which could have been influenced by the Nazca people. The Wari (Spanish: Huari) civilization flourished from about 600 AD in the Andean highlands and forged a complex society widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire. Their Andean capital, Huari, became one of the world’s great cities of the time. Relatively little is known about the Wari because no written record remains, although thousands of archaeological sites reveal much about their lives.

Recent research revealed that an enormous geoglyph of a moose in the Ural Mountains, Russia, is among the oldest examples of land art in the world, dating back some 6,000 years. The moose measures approximately 275 meters (900 feet) in length (at its longest point), and was formed by ditches 30 centimeters (12 inches) deep and between 4.5 meters (15 feet) and 10 meters (32 feet) wide. The ditches were dug out and then filled with stones, with larger stones usually placed along the edges and smaller stones used to fill in the middle. The hooves of the moose were filled in with a mixture of clay and crushed stones. An analysis of stone tools found at the site revealed a style of lithic reduction that corresponds to the period between 3,000 and 4,000 BC. Perhaps one of the most interesting discoveries to emerge from recent excavation work at the site, is that an examination of more than 150 tools found around the geoglyph suggests that children were involved in its construction, as well as adults. “But it was not a kind of slave labour of children,” said Stanislav Grigoryev, a senior researcher from the Chelyabinsk History and Archaeology Institute. “They were involved to share common values, to join something important to all the people.”

Huge stone circles in the Middle East have been imaged from the air, but researchers remain puzzled as to why they exist, and who made them. Eleven big circles dot the landscape across Jordan and Syria. They date back at least 2,000 years, but may even be pre-historic, created in a time before the invention of writing. The geoglyphs are very large, some of them approximately 1,300 feet in diameter, and are composed of short, stone walls built from local rocks. Researchers say the circles would have required some planning, as many of the circles are very precise. It was likely there was some sort of “architect” to head up each project. Researchers question whether the circles were used to maintain animal herds, or may have been areas of burial, but so far no contemporary remains – or any obvious practical uses – have been recovered or gleaned from the sites. Thousands of other ancient structures have been found across the Middle East, such as wheels, walls, pendants (lines to and from burial cairns) and kites (stone walls used to drive animals into kill areas). Much like the enigmatic Nasca lines of Peru – giant geoglyphs half a world away from Jordan – the intentions of the builders, and the purpose of the designs remain, for now, a very baffling mystery.

n Western Bolivia, thousands and thousands of perfectly straight paths are etched into the ground, creating an amazing sight. These lines were carved into the ground over a period of 3,000 years by indigenous people living near the volcano Sajama. It is unknown exactly when or why they were constructed, and it is hard to imagine how the construction of something of such magnitude could pre-date modern technology. The Sajama lines cover an area of approximately 22,525 square kilometers, or 8,700 square miles. They are perfectly straight lines, formed into a web or network. Each individual line is 1-3 meters, or 3-10 feet wide. The longest lines measure 20 kilometers, or 12 miles in length. The creation of these lines without the aid of modern technology is a marvel. They were etched into the ground by scraping vegetation to the side, and scouring away dark surface material consisting of soil and oxidized rock, to reveal a light subsurface. The precision of the Sajama lines is remarkable. While many of these sacred lines extend as far as ten or twenty kilometers (and perhaps further), they all seem to maintain a remarkable straightness despite rugged topography and natural obstacles. Some believe that the indigenous people used the lines as a navigational tool during sacred pilgrimages. Wak’as (shrines), chullpas (burial towers) and hamlets are interspersed among the lines, creating a cultural landscape.

The Paracas Candelabra is a prehistoric geoglyph found in the Paracas Peninsula at Pisco Bay, Peru. With a large, branchlike appearance, the purpose and meaning of the Candelabra remains unknown. The Paracas Candelabra is estimated to be approximately 595 – 800 feet tall and can be seen from as far as 12 miles out at sea. The geoglyph was created by cutting two feet deep into the hardened soil, with rocks placed around the figure. The shape of the geoglyph is mysterious and somewhat difficult to describe. Some have likened it to a cactus plant, while others believe it looks more like a three-branched candlestick, hence the name “candelabra.” The meaning and purpose of the Paracas Candelabra are unknown to this day. The Conquistadors supposedly believed the geoglyph represents the Holy Trinity, and took it as a good omen and a sign that they should proceed with their quest to conquer and Christianize the locals, although no clear historical records authenticate this assertion. Some believe the Paracas Candelabra is a representation of a hallucinogenic plant called Jimson weed, while others have suggested that the geoglyph represents a lightning rod of the god Viracocha, who was the great creator god in the pre-Inca and Inca mythology in the Andes region of South America. The true meaning and purpose of the Paracas Candelabra remain elusive to this day, and may be forever lost to history. Nevertheless, the enormous geoglyph continues to attract people from all over the world who marvel at its sheer size and wonder about its origin and creation.


World’s Largest Handmade Drawings Discovered In Thar Surpass Peru’s Nazca Enigma

Independent French researchers Carlo Oetheimer and Yohann Oetheimer recently published a paper discussing their findings in Thar, Rajasthan, and the discovery of possibly the world’s biggest geoglyphs, that surpass the famous Peruvian Nazca lines.

I n the 1930s, pilots flying commercial planes over the Peruvian coastal plain noticed and brought attention to a strange pattern of lines etched into the ground. These were depictions of various plants, animals and shapes drawn with over 800 straight lines, some as long as 48 km. These included depictions of spiders, hummingbirds, cacti, monkeys, whales, llamas, ducks, flowers, trees, lizards and dogs.

These came to be known as the now famous Nazca Lines, which are geoglyphs—designs or motifs produced on the ground by moving or arranging objects on a landscape—that are over 2,000 years old, created somewhere between 500 BC and AD 500. These were made by creating shallow incisions or depressions in the desert floor by removing pebbles to leave different coloured dirt exposed. Despite continuous studies since their discovery, they remain one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

While always thought to be the largest ground paintings in the world, these figures have now been surpassed by a recent discovery.

In a paper published in Science Direct in June 2021, father-son duo and independent researchers from France, Carlo Oetheimer and Yohann Oetheimer, discuss how they identified eight sites around Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, in the Thar Desert that depict linear figures that resemble geoglyphs. They did so using Google Earth images, drone observations and field visits. In particular, a drone survey was conducted in 2016, which found that while some ditches were dug in the area for tree plantation, “ground paintings unrelated to the tree planting were also confirmed”.

A close up of the lines (Source: Carlos, Yohann Oetheimer)

The two researchers found a series of these linear figures in Boha, a small village located around 40 km from Jaisalmer. “Two remarkable geometrical figures: a giant spiral adjacent to an atypical serpent-shaped drawing, are connected with a cluster of sinuous lines. This triad extends over 20.8 ha and totals more than half of the 48 km of lines observed. Three memorial stones positioned at key points, give evidence that planimetric knowledge has been used to create this elaborate design,” the paper states.

The researchers say that these geoglyphs are the largest ones discovered worldwide, and the first of their kind in the Indian subcontinent. The largest figure was named Boha 1, and is a giant asymmetrical spiral made from a single line that loops and runs for around 12 kilometres. “The Boha 1 unit interpreted as a series of 12 eccentric ellipses, was revealed to be a huge spiral,” the paper reads.

Boha 2 is a serpentine figure, around 11 km long. “By analogy these curves replicate a boustrophedon. This term refers to primitive writings whose lines can be read from left to right and then from right to left, in the same way a plow travels in a field. The inflection points in the lines generate a gap of 4.7–14 m between them,” reads the paper.

Boha 3 and 4 included a series of meandering lines, and “two iconographic units, adjacent to the previous ones, draw about 80 serpentine lines between 40 and 200 m long. Boha 3 forms a cluster of lines oriented towards the NE, immediately at the apex of the giant spiral. Boha 4, on the other hand, is located about 50 meters away, SW of the boustrophedon. We experienced more difficulty achieving a precise mapping because many of these lines are heavily eroded. They have generally random sinuosities and adopt rhythmic undulations that look like braids in two areas”.

While these figures stretched for about 48 kilometres, the researchers suggested that the distance might have once been around 80 km. The authors say, “The giant spiral and serpentine figure are definitely the major points of interest, closely connected to Boha 3, suggesting that all the other geoglyphs were created as a framework for this set. Due to their spatial contiguity, [these] can be perceived as a sequential project. We still have to identify the semantic relationships binding them. However, we can interpret the construction stages of this triptych, guided by their layout and the principle of simplicity.”

The duo further explain, “Our observations suggest that a plow-type tool could have been used, possibly pulled by a camel on loose deposits, as commonly practiced by the Thar Desert farmers. This process, which does not exclude manual finishing, would explain the many inflection points in the lines. It should be noted that a small rock outcrop has been carved, indicating a concern to preserve the continuity of the line. These observations suggest that the creation of the Boha geoglyphs did not represent a considerable labor investment.”

A view from above, with the red shaded portion indicating human damage (Source: Carlos, Yohann Oetheimer)

Unlike in the case of the Nazca lines, where their creation was attributed to the ancient Nazca culture, it is unclear as to who might have drawn the figures at Thar. Moreover, these lines are reportedly only around 150 years old, and may be contemporary creations using Hindu memorial stones found in the region. “It is conceivable that they were built at the beginning of the British colonial period, in the middle of the 19th century. According to this hypothesis, the lines could be contemporary with the neighboring memorial stones,” the authors say. They further believe that these figures were made using planimetric, the study of plane areas, knowledge.

In terms of what these lines may suggest, the researchers say, “Only a bird’s-eye view 300 m above the ground would lead to the perception of the main complex as a whole. According to this assumption, how could the creators of these ambiguous signs ensure that they were properly seen and interpreted? The lack of visibility excludes the possibility of artistic expression, intended to be contemplated from the ground and invites us to consider religious, astronomical and/or cosmological meanings. Finally, because of their uniqueness, we can speculate that they could represent a commemoration of an exceptional celestial event observed locally.”

Archeological artefacts found in the vicinity of the geoglyphs (Source: Carlos, Yohann Oetheimer)

Of its significance, they say, “…At this stage of the research, we remain convinced that these unique geoglyphs are closely connected to their geographical and cultural context, and possibly contain a universal message linked to the Sacred and the cosmos.”

They further said that the Government of India must act to protect these geoglyphs before they disappear due to human activity. “…Boha’s geoglyphs appear to be the largest human-abstract and organically arranged geoglyphs ever discovered,” they said while concluding their paper.


11 Most Mysterious Geoglyphs Around The Globe

Mysterious geoglyphs, large motifs etched onto landscape, are found in isolated places throughout the world and some are thousands of years old.

What is Geoglyph

A geoglyph is a large design or motif (generally longer than 4 metres) produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, live trees, gravel, or earth.

It is believed these enormous ground drawings have been created by ancient cultures in the distant past. Most of them can only be viewed from the air. Who was the intended audience for these geoglyphs if they were created at a time before air travels possible?

Who built them and why remains a mystery, purposes attributed to them are almost as varied as their shapes and locations.

Here’s our list of 11 of most mysterious geoglyphs that can only be spied from the air.

1 – Nazca Lines, Peru

The Nazca Lines (sometimes spelled Nasca Lines) are hundreds of geoglyphs, abstract and figural art etched into part of the several hundred square kilometers of the Nazca Pampa landscape called the Pampa de San José in coastal northern Peru.

It is believed they were created sometime between 200 B.C. and 500 A.D.

They consist of hundreds of figures, many of which depict animals such as hummingbirds, sharks, monkeys, spiders, orcas, lizards and even an alleged “spaceman.”

2 – The Badlands Guardian, Canada

The Badlands’ Guardian is near Medicine Hat in the south-east of Alberta and not far from the border with the USA. The location of the geological wonder is very remote, in an area that has been traditionally the home of the Siska First Nation People, often known as the Blackfoot tribes.

The geological wonder, the Guardian of the Badlands was only uncovered in recent years and purely by chance. It is a geographical feature that, when seen from the air, resembles the face of an indigenous person in profile. The Indian head is looking westward and it is very large and even bigger than the heads on Mount Rushmore. It has the distinctive features of a First Nations male and it appears to be wearing traditional headwear, a feather headdress, which is synonymous with Aboriginal culture.

The geological feature was produced several hundred years ago or more, probably because a fierce storm unleashed flooding and winds that eroded the clayey soil and sedimentary rocks. The erosion left gullies and channels that have by complete chance formed the image of the Indian head if seen from a great height. No one believes that the feature was created by humans, but it is the result of natural processes.

The feature was discovered during the Google Earth project when they used satellite imagery and reproduced them in 3-D which led to the identification of the natural world. The Guardian is regarded as one of Google Earth’s most remarkable finds.

3 – Marree Man, Australia

The Marree Man is the second largest geoglyph in the world. It depicts an indigenous man hunting birds or wallabies with a throwing stick.

The Marree Man was first noticed on June 26 of 1998 by a pilot who was flying over the remote region. It has been determined that geoglyph was created in modern times. Nevertheless, its origin, meaning and purpose remain a mystery.

4 – Paracas Candelabra, Peru

This stunning geoglyph can be found on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula at Pisco Bay in Peru, and is believed to date to around 200 B.C . Its purpose and meaning are unknown, though speculative theories abound.

Local legend suggests it represents the lightning rod or staff of the god Viracocha, who was worshipped throughout South America. But others have suggested it could have been constructed as a sign to sailors, or even as a symbolic representation of a hallucinogenic plant called Jimson weed.

5 – Works of the Old Men, Arabian Peninsula

Hundreds of thousands of geoglyphs are scattered across Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan depicting an array of “wheels,” among other motifs. Dubbed the “Works of the Old Men,” the features are believed by some to be several thousand years old, which would make them far older than the more famous Nazca Lines.

It still remains unknown: When were they built? And why?

6 – Atacama Geoglyphs, Chile

The Atacama Geoglyphs are located in the coastal desert of Chile. There were more than 5,000 geoglyphs built between 600-1500 CE, made by moving around the dark desert pavement. In addition to figural art including llamas, lizards, dolphins, monkeys, humans, eagles, and rheas, the Atacama glyphs include circles, concentric circles, circles with dots, rectangles, diamonds, arrows, and crosses.

Atacama Giant

The Atacama Giant (119 meters high) is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world. It is believed to represent a deity for the local inhabitants who created it between A.D. 1000 and 1400. But the figure has also been the subject of wild theories about its meaning that involve conjectures about alien visitations.

7 – Russian ‘Moose’ Geoglyph, Russia

The stone structure, located near Lake Zyuratkul north of the Kazakhstan border, features an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers.

The 900ft “animal”, which was discovered in 2011, is covered by a layer of soil and faces north on the Zyuratkul ridge.

The style of the stone-working, called lithic chipping, dates to the Neolithic and Eneolithic period 6,000 to 3,000 years BC. If that is correct, it would make the moose geoglyph much older than Peru’s Nazca Lines, the earliest of which were created around 500 BC.

8 – Amazonian Geoglyphs, Brazil

Since the 1970s, deforestation has revealed a complex network of mysterious ancient geoglyphs in the Amazon basin, possibly built by a lost Pre-Columbian civilization.

If this is true, it could completely rewrite the book on ancient cultures and population density of prehistoric South America.

9 – Blythe Intaglios, USA

These remarkable intaglios (anthropomorphic geoglyphs) are found near Blythe, Calif., in the Colorado Desert, along the Colorado River. Created simply by scraping away layers of darker rocks to reveal the lighter rocks beneath, the figures have remained preserved over the millennia thanks to the dryness of the region.

Believed to have been originally created by the Mojave and Quechan Indians around A.D. 1000, the figures weren’t discovered until 1932, when a pilot happened to look down and notice them.

10 – Uffington White Horse, UK

This highly stylized prehistoric hill figure, dubbed the Uffington White Horse , is in the county of Oxfordshire, England. Scholars suggest the feature, which is formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk, was probably first created during the Bronze Age between 1200 B.C. and 800 B.C.

Though it is widely believed to depict a horse, there are some who claim it more closely resembles a big cat of some kind, which would be a mystery indeed, as there are no big cats that roam Great Britain.

11 – Big Horn Medicine Wheel of Wyoming, USA

A mysterious pattern of stones sits at the summit of Medicine Mountain, nearly 10,000 feet above the Bighorn Range in Wyoming. Covered by heavy snows for most of the year, the stone configuration reveals itself and its purpose only in the summer months.

It is believed the geoglyph was built about 1300 AD . The stones are arranged in the shape of a wheel, 80 feet across and with 28 spokes emanating from a central cairn.

Known as medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, these special structures have been built by American Indians for centuries. With uses ranging from the ritual to the astronomical, the medicine wheel has been appropriated over time by New Age spiritualists, Wiccans, and Pagans.


Older Than Nazca: Mysterious Rock Lines Marked Way to Ancient Peru Fairs

New rock lines discovered in Peru predate the famous Nazca Lines by centuries and likely once marked the site of ancient fairs, researchers say.

The lines were created by people of the Paracas, a civilization that arose around 800 B.C. in what is now Peru. The Paracas culture predated the Nazca culture, which came onto the scene around 100 B.C. The Nazca people are famous for their fantastic geoglyphs, or rock lines, built in the shapes of monkeys, birds and other animals.

The new lines date to around 300 B.C., making them at least 300 years older than the oldest Nazca lines, said Charles Stanish, the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who reported the new find today (May 5) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"They used the lines in a different way than the Nazca," Stanish told Live Science. "They basically created these areas of highly ritualized processions and activities that were not settled permanently." [ See Images of Ancient 'Nazca' Lines & Fair Site ]

The closest European analog, Stanish said, would be the medieval fairs that brought visitors from far and wide.

Ancient fairs

Stanish and his team discovered the lines in the Chinca Valley, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Lima, Peru. The area has a history of pre-European-contact settlements stretching from at least 800 B.C. to the 1500s A.D.

Archaeological surveys revealed large, ancient mounds in the valley. Over three field seasons, Stanish and his colleagues mapped these mounds, as well as nearby rock lines associated with each mound. They found 71 geoglyph lines or segments, 353 rock cairns, rocks forming circles or rectangles, and one point at which a series of lines converged in a circle of rays. The researchers also excavated one cluster of man-made mounds.

The excavations and mapping revealed a carefully built environment. Some long lines marked the spot where the sun would have set during the June solstice (the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). Two U-shaped mounds also pointed toward the June solstice sunset, and the largest platform mound on the site lined up with the solstice as well. These lines and mounds probably served as a way to mark time during festivals, Stanish said.

Some lines are set out to frame pyramid structures, Stanish said. The lines are parallel, but because parallel lines seem to converge with distance, these framing lines appear to point directly at pyramids. Other lines run parallel to roads that are still used today, Stanish said.

"I don't think people needed the signposts, but it was more kind of a ritualized thing, where you come down and everything's prepared," he said.

Andean trade

The desert lines and mounds are about 9 miles (15 km) from settlements near the coast. Stanish and his colleagues suspect that the ancient "fairgrounds" were built on land that was useless for farming and were intended to attract tradespeople and buyers from the coast and the Andes highlands.

The mounds, pyramids and lines were likely the ancient version of neon signs, Stanish explained: "We're expending time and effort and resources to make our place bigger and better," he said, explaining the mindset of those who created the constructions. The various settlements on the coast probably competed to attract the most participants to their own fairs.

To confirm this notion, the researchers plan to excavate pyramids near the coast, looking for artifacts that would link settlements to the desert lines and mounds.

The discovery of these older rock lines emphasizes the geoglyphs had more than one function, Stanish said. People have long looked for "the" reason for the Nazca lines, but it's more accurate to think of the lines like multi-purpose technology, he said.

"The lines are effectively a social technology," Stanish said. "They're using it for certain purposes. Some people have said the lines point out sacred mountains. Sure, why not? The lines [might] point out sacred pyramids. Why not? The lines could [also] be used to point out processions," Stanish said of both the Nazca and Peru lines.

In that way, Stanish said, the lines are like pottery: one invention used for multiple purposes.

"Native Americans in this part of the world were extremely ingenious," he said.


Contents

The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 km (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana, approximately 400 km (250 mi) south of Lima. The main PE-1S Panamericana Sur runs parallel to it. The main concentration of designs is in a 10 by 4 km (6 by 2 mi) rectangle, south of the hamlet of San Miguel de la Pascana. In this area, the most notable geoglyphs are visible.

Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture.

The first published mention of the Nazca Lines was by Pedro Cieza de León in his book of 1553, and he described them as trail markers. [14]

In 1586, Luis Monzón reported having seen ancient ruins in Peru, including the remains of "roads". [15]

Although the lines were partially visible from nearby hills, the first to report them in the 20th century were Peruvian military and civilian pilots. In 1927 Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía Xesspe spotted them while he was hiking through the foothills. He discussed them at a conference in Lima in 1939. [16]

Paul Kosok, an American historian from Long Island University in New York, is credited as the first scholar to study the Nazca Lines in depth. While in Peru in 1940–41 to study ancient irrigation systems, he flew over the lines and realized that one was in the shape of a bird. Another chance observation helped him see how lines converged on the horizon at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. He began to study how the lines might have been created, as well as to try to determine their purpose. He was joined by archaeologist Richard P. Schaedel from the United States, and Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist from Lima, to try to determine the purpose of the Nazca Lines. They proposed that the figures were designed as astronomical markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose on significant dates. Archaeologists, historians, and mathematicians have all tried to determine the purpose of the lines.

Determining how they were made has been easier than determining why they were made. Scholars have theorized that the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Archaeological surveys have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which supports this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and was the basis for establishing the age of the design complex.

Joe Nickell, an American investigator of the paranormal, religious artifacts, and folk mysteries, reproduced the figures in the early 21st century by using the same tools and technology that would have been available to the Nazca people. In so doing, he refuted the 1969 hypothesis of Erich von Däniken, [17] who suggested that "ancient astronauts" had constructed these works. Scientific American characterized Nickell's work as "remarkable in its exactness" when compared to the existing lines. [18] With careful planning and simple technologies, Nickell proved that a small team of people could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance. [19]

Most of the lines are formed on the ground by a shallow trench, with a depth between 10 and 15 cm (4 and 6 in). Such trenches were made by removing for a portion of the design, the reddish-brown, iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca Desert. When this gravel is removed, the light-colored clay earth exposed in the bottom of the trench contrasts sharply in color and tone with the surrounding land surface, producing visible lines. This sub-layer contains high amounts of lime. With moisture from morning mist, it hardens to form a protective layer that shields the lines from winds, thereby preventing erosion.

The Nazca used this technique to "draw" several hundred simple, but huge, curvilinear animal and human figures. In total, the earthwork project is huge and complex: the area encompassing the lines is nearly 450 km 2 (170 sq mi), and the largest figures can span nearly 370 m (1,200 ft). [4] Some figures have been measured: the hummingbird is 93 m (305 ft) long, the condor is 134 m (440 ft), the monkey is 93 by 58 m (305 by 190 ft), and the spider is 47 m (154 ft). The extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region has preserved the lines well. This desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature near 25 °C (77 °F) year round. The lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered and visible.

The discovery of two new small figures was announced in early 2011 by a Japanese team from Yamagata University. One of these resembles a human head and is dated to the early period of Nazca culture or earlier. The other, undated, is an animal. The team has been conducting fieldwork there since 2006, and by 2012 has found approximately 100 new geoglyphs. [20] In March 2012, the university announced that it would open a new research center at the site in September 2012, related to a longterm project to study the area for the next 15 years. [21]

A June 2019 article in Smithsonian magazine describes recent work by a multi-disciplinary team of Japanese researchers who identified/re-identified some of the birds depicted. [22] They note that birds are the animals most frequently depicted in the Nasca geoglyphs. The team believes that some of the bird images that previous researchers assumed to be indigenous species more closely resemble exotic birds found in non-desert habitats. They speculated that "The reason exotic birds were depicted in the geoglyphs instead of indigenous birds is closely related to the purpose of the etching process." [23]

The discovery of 143 new geoglyphs on the Nasca Pampa and in the surrounding area was announced in 2019 by Yamagata University and IBM Japan. [24] One of these was found by using machine-learning-based methods. [25]

Lines forming the shape of a cat were discovered on a hill in 2020. [26] The figure is on a steep slope prone to erosion, explaining why it had not previously been discovered [27] until archaeologists carefully revealed the image. [28] Drones are revealing sites for further research.

Anthropologists, ethnologists, and archaeologists have studied the ancient Nazca culture to try to determine the purpose of the lines and figures. One hypothesis is that the Nazca people created them to be seen by deities in the sky.

Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche advanced a purpose related to astronomy and cosmology, as has been common in monuments of other ancient cultures: the lines were intended to act as a kind of observatory, to point to the places on the distant horizon where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set at the solstices. Many prehistoric indigenous cultures in the Americas and elsewhere constructed earthworks that combined such astronomical sighting with their religious cosmology, as did the late Mississippian culture at Cahokia and other sites in present-day United States. Another example is Stonehenge in England. Newgrange in Ireland has tombs that are oriented to admit light at the winter solstice.

Gerald Hawkins and Anthony Aveni, experts in archaeoastronomy, concluded in 1990 that the evidence was insufficient to support such an astronomical explanation. [29]

Maria Reiche asserted that some or all of the figures represented constellations. By 1998, Phyllis B. Pitluga, a protégé of Reiche and senior astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, had concluded that the animal figures were "representations of heavenly shapes." According to The New York Times, Pitluga "contends they are not shapes of constellations, but of what might be called counter constellations, the irregularly-shaped dark patches within the twinkling expanse of the Milky Way." [30] Anthony Aveni criticized her work for failing to account for all the details. [ citation needed ]

Alberto Rossell Castro (1977) proposed a multi-functional interpretation of the geoglyphs. He classified them into three groups: the first appeared to be tracks connected to irrigation and field division, the second are lines that are axes connected with mounds and cairns, and the third was linked to astronomical interpretations. [31]

In 1985, archaeologist Johan Reinhard published archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data demonstrating that worship of mountains and other water sources predominated in Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. He theorized that the lines and figures were part of religious practices involving the worship of deities associated with the availability of water, which directly related to the success and productivity of crops. He interpreted the lines as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be worshiped. The figures were symbols representing animals and objects meant to invoke the aid of the deities in supplying water. The precise meanings of many of the individual geoglyphs remain unknown.

Henri Stierlin, a Swiss art historian specializing in Egypt and the Middle East, published a book in 1983 linking the Nazca Lines to the production of ancient textiles that archeologists have found wrapping mummies of the Paracas culture. [32] He contended that the people may have used the lines and trapezes as giant, primitive looms to fabricate the extremely long strings and wide pieces of textiles typical of the area. According to his theory, the figurative patterns (smaller and less common) were meant only for ritualistic purposes. This theory is not widely accepted, although scholars have noted similarities in patterns between the textiles and the Nazca Lines. They interpret these similarities as arising from the common culture.

The first systematic field study of the geoglyphs was made by Markus Reindel and Johny Cuadrado Island. Since 1996, they have documented and excavated more than 650 sites. They compared the iconography of the lines to ceramics of the cultures. As archeologists, they believe that the figurative motifs of geoglyphs can be dated to having been made between 600 and 200 BCE. [33]

Based on the results of geophysical investigations and the observation of geological faults, David Johnson argued that some geoglyphs followed the paths of aquifers from which aqueducts (or puquios) collected water. [34]

Nicola Masini and Giuseppe Orefici have conducted research in Pampa de Atarco, about 10 km (6 mi) south of Pampa de Nasca, which they believe reveals a spatial, functional and religious relationship between these geoglyphs and the temples of Cahuachi. [35] In particular, using remote sensing techniques (from satellite to drone based remote sensing), they investigated and found "five groups of geoglyphs, each of them characterized by a specific motif and shape, and associated with a distinct function." [35] [36] They identified a ceremonial one, characterized by meandering motifs. Another is related to calendrical purpose, as proved by the presence of radial centers aligned along the directions of winter solstice and equinox sunset. As have earlier scholars, the two Italians believe that the geoglyphs were the venues of events linked to the agriculture calendar. These also served to strengthen social cohesion among various groups of pilgrims, sharing common ancestors and religious beliefs. [35]

A recent study of the lines using hydrogeology and tectonics shows that many of the lines are utilitarian features born out of the need to harness and manage freshwater resources in a desert environment, and reflect the general movement of surface water downslope. [37]

Other theories were that the geometric lines could indicate water flow or irrigation schemes, or be a part of rituals to "summon" water. The spiders, birds, and plants may be fertility symbols. It also has been theorized that the lines could act as an astronomical calendar. [38]

Phyllis Pitluga, senior astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and a protégé of Reiche, performed computer-aided studies of star alignments. She asserted the giant spider figure is an anamorphic diagram of the constellation Orion. She further suggested that three of the straight lines leading to the figure were used to track the changing declinations of the three stars of Orion's Belt. In a critique of her analysis, Dr. Anthony F. Aveni noted she did not account for the other 12 lines of the figure.

He commented generally on her conclusions, saying:

I really had trouble finding good evidence to back up what she contended. Pitluga never laid out the criteria for selecting the lines she chose to measure, nor did she pay much attention to the archaeological data Clarkson and Silverman had unearthed. Her case did little justice to other information about the coastal cultures, save applying, with subtle contortions, Urton's representations of constellations from the highlands. As historian Jacquetta Hawkes might ask: was she getting the pampa she desired? [39]

Jim Woodmann [40] theorized that the Nazca lines could not have been made without some form of flight to observe the figures properly. Based on his study of available technology, he suggests a hot-air balloon was the only possible means of flight at the time of construction. To test this hypothesis, Woodmann made a hot-air balloon using materials and techniques he understood to have been available to the Nazca people. The balloon flew, after a fashion. Most scholars have rejected Woodmann's thesis as ad hoc, [19] because of the lack of any evidence of such balloons. [41]

People trying to preserve the Nazca Lines are concerned about threats of pollution and erosion caused by deforestation in the region.

The Lines themselves are superficial, they are only 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in) deep and could be washed away. Nazca has only ever received a small amount of rain. But now there are great changes to the weather all over the world. The Lines cannot resist heavy rain without being damaged.

After flooding and mudslides in the area in mid-February 2007, Mario Olaechea Aquije, archaeological resident from Peru's National Institute of Culture, and a team of specialists surveyed the area. He said, "[T]he mudslides and heavy rains did not appear to have caused any significant damage to the Nazca Lines". He noted that the nearby Southern Pan-American Highway did suffer damage, and "the damage done to the roads should serve as a reminder to just how fragile these figures are." [43]

In 2012, squatters occupied land in the area, damaging a Nazca-era cemetery and allowing their pigs to have access to some of the land. [44]

In 2013, machinery used in a limestone quarry was reported to have destroyed a small section of a line, and caused damage to another. [45]

In December 2014, a controversy arose involving Greenpeace activity on the site, as Greenpeace activists set up a banner within the lines of one of the geoglyphs, inadvertently damaging the site. Greenpeace issued an apology following the incident, [46] though one of the activists was convicted and fined for their part in causing damage. [47]

The Greenpeace incident also directed attention to other damage to geoglyphs outside of the World Heritage area caused in 2012 and 2013 by off-road vehicles of the Dakar Rally, [48] which is visible from satellite imagery. [49]

In January 2018, an errant truck driver was arrested but later released for lack of evidence indicating any intent other than a simple error. He had damaged three of the geoglyphs by leaving substantial tire marks across an area of approximately 46 m by 107 m (150 by 350 feet). [50] [51]

The Paracas culture is considered by some historians to be the possible precursor that influenced the development of the Nazca Lines. In 2018, drones used by archaeologists revealed 25 geoglyphs in the Palpa province that are being assigned to the Paracas culture. Many predate the associated Nazca lines by a thousand years. Some demonstrate a significant difference in the subjects and locations, such as some being on hillsides. [52] Their co-discoverer, Peruvian archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, indicates that many of these newly discovered geoglyphs represent warriors. [53] The Paracas is the same group which some believe created the well-known geoglyph known as the Paracas Candelabra.

Further north from the Nazca, Palpas region and along the Peruvian coast are other glyphs from the Chincha culture that have also been discovered. [54]