Day 9 - At Sea





Weird being with huge hands



The commonly called "Nasca Lines" made known by Toribio Mejia Xespe in 1939, are the most outstanding group of geoglyphs in the world. They are not the only ones, as there are huge geoglyphs worldwide. But the Nasca geoglyphs, because of their numbers, characteristics, dimensions and cultural continuity, form the most impressive as well as enigmatic archeological group.

The concentration and juxtaposition of the lines and drawings leave no doubt that they required intensive long-term labor as demonstrated by the stylistic continuity of the designs, which clearly correspond to the different stages of cultural changes.

The desolate plain of the Peruvian coast comprising the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, covers an area of approximately 450 km2, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes. There we can find innumerable figures of various characteristics and sizes. The pebbles which cover the surface of the desert contain ferrous oxide and the exposure of centuries has given them a dark patina. When the gravel is removed, they contrast with the color underneath. In this way the lines were drawn as furrows of a lighter color, even though in some cases they became prints. In other cases, the stones defining the lines and drawings form small lateral humps of different sizes. Some drawings, especially the early ones, were made by removing the stones and gravel from their contours and in this way the figures stood out in high relief.

In general terms, we can say that there are two kinds of designs: the first are figures of various beings and things and the others form geometric lines. The former consist of figures of animals, plants, objects, such as anthropomorphic figures of colossal proportions.


Of these figures which have been restored by Maria Reiche and other collaborators about 70 are known: the Spider, approximately 46m long, the Monkey, 55m long, the Guanay (guano bird), 280m long, the Lizzard 180m, the Hummingbird, 50m long, the Killer Whale, 65m long or the Pelican -the largest of them all- at 285m long. One also finds drawings of flowers and plants, as well as representations of deformed animals and other strange figures. An example of this is the drawing of a Weird Being With Two Enormous Hands, one normal and the other with only four fingers. All these figures have well-defined entrances which could be used as paths or to allow people to line together along the conformations of the drawings.

The anthropomorphic figures are relatively few and are situated on the slopes. The most well-known being
The Astronaut at 32m length, discovered by Eduardo Herran in 1982. Others are The Man with a Hat and The Executioner and they also appear to be the most primitive. These figures are very similar to the
small petroglyphs found in the rocky areas of the region.

Many of the lines form geometric figures: angles, triangles, bunches, spirals, rectangles, wavy lines, etc. Other lines form concentric circles converging with or emanating from a promontory. Other prints have formed "roads" like geometric planes and appear to have been occupied by large groups of the population.

The Nasca megaglyphs are the object of many interpretations, even though to date there is no evidence of their function. They seem to have been used for rituals, probably related to astronomy. However it is thought that their principal function was to confirm the "ayllus" or clans who made up the population and to determine through ritual their economic functions held up by reciprocity and redistribution.

Dr. Fernando Silva Santisteban
Dean of the school of Human Sciences - Lima University



Killer Whale


Read the passages carefully and ANSWER these questions:


Why do the Nasca geoglyphs form a most impressive archaelogical group



What has given the pebbles which cover the surface of the desert a dark patina? 



How were the early drawings made?



How long is the largest of all these figures?



What do the Nasca megaglyphs seem to have been used for?



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