Saturday, November 13, 2010

What are Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines, also known as Nazca figures, Nazca Pictures and Nazca Images, are an engima. No one know who had built them or indeed why. Since their discovery, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations from ancient gods, a landing strip for returning aliens, a celestial calendar, used for rituals probably related to astronomy, 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 or, a map of underground water supplies.

How they were discovered

In the 1930s, when air travel was gaining popularity as the easiest way to cross the high altitude peaks of South America, passengers flying over the lofty plains of Peru were greeted with quite a sight. Downon the arid, dry plateau of the Nazca desert, which is about 250 miles south of Lima andcovers an area of approximately 200 square miles, was a plethora of massive markings, many in the shape of people and animals, although there were also hundreds of crisscrossing, randomly spaced lines.

Locals had always known of the strange marks found on the dusty floor, although it was only now, from the air, that their true designs were revealed. The discovery sparked an interest and a study that continues to this day. The pictures themselves were created using the gravel, soil and distinctly colored under-crust.

Because the area experiences less than an inch of rainfall each year, and the effect of the wind on the surface is minimal, the shapes have been preserved over centuries. There are over 100 outlines of animals and plants, including a monkey, spider, hummingbird and even, it is thought, a figure of a "spaceman". Countless straight lines form squares, triangles, trapezoids and all manner of strange angles.

Recent discoveries and theories

They seem to run in random directions and to random lengths - one even stretches for nine miles along the desert floor. Over 3,000 years ago the area was inhabited by a race called the Nazca, who had developed proficient techniques in pottery, weaving and architecture. They created highly effective irrigation systems and successfully grew crops in a harsh environment. It is widely believed that these people were responsible for drawing the lines, although the actual date of the lines' creation is impossible to determine. A nearby city called Cahauchi, just south of the lines, was recently discovered as being the probable home of the Nazcan line drawers.

Experts were able to deduce that the majority of Nazcan people fled the city after a series of natural disasters, with the few native people who remained being exiled or killed by Spanish conquistadors. But why would a race want to draw pictures that could only be appreciated from the sky? Perhaps the most celebrated theory was the one advanced by Dr Maria Reiche. She tried to prove that the lines correlated to important stars rising in the heavens, and the symbols of animals were actually native representations of star constellations.
But her views were not universally supported due to the very fact that the lines cannot be dated. As the Earth's relationship with the universe turns, any line in any direction will correspond to some astronomical feature at some date. After a lifetime of study and fascination, Reiche died and was buried in the Nazca valley in 1998.

During the 1960s, writers such as Louis Pauwels, Jacques Bergier, and Erich von Daniken famously promoted ideas that the lines were runways or landing strip for alien visitors. Other theories suggest they are an astronomical calendar; that they were used for religious ceremonies; or that they indicated underground sources of water. One expert believes that, before the invention of weaving tools, the lines had men standing along them holding thread, in a version of a giant human loom. But exactly why the images were designed to be viewed from the air has never really been addressed. One quite astonishing theory is that the Nazca people were the original human aviators, and had developed the first rudimentary hot air balloon.

Our understanding of the Nazcan culture has developed with archaeological discoveries, but today the fate of the lines is in serious jeopardy and threat. In recent years, political and advertising agencies have graffitied slogans on the patterns, whilst a recent surge in gold and copper mining in the area is defacing the designs with industrial activities and heavy traffic movements.
The expanding local population needs a higher level of basic amenities, which has meant utility providers are now running cables and pipes over the site. Combined with the effects of natural weathering, this means that the most enigmatic and mysterious visual display of an ancient race is under threat of being lost from Man's history forever.

updates on 20/09/2011: 'Nazca Lines' in Middle East Deserts:
Satellite and aerial photography has revealed mysterious stone ‘wheels’ that are more numerous and older than the Nazca Lines in countries such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The structures are thought to date back 2,000 years, but why they were built is baffling archaeologists and historians.
What seems to be reminiscent of the famous Nazca Lines in Peru, scientists have discovered similar structures in the Middle East stretching from Syria to Saudi Arabia. They can only be viewed from the air and they appear to be wheels. What will proponents of the Ancient Astronaut theory say about this latest discovery?
New research shows thousands of stone structures that resemble wheels across the Middle Eastern desert. These virtually unknown constructions have been labelled as the Middle Eastern version of the Nazca Lines that stretch from Syria all the way to Saudi Arabia, according to a news release from Live Science. The mysterious geoglyphs were etched into the ground thousands of years ago by indigenous groups. They were found using aerial and satellite technology, which led to the conclusion that these wheels are older and more numerous than the structures in Peru that show a monkey, a spider and apparent air strips.
“In Jordan alone we've got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older,” said professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia, David Kennedy, in a statement. “You can't not be fascinated by these things. ”Kennedy’s research will add insight into these stone landscapes. They were utilized for kites – used for funneling and murdering animals – walls and pendants – stone cairns that run from burials.

“Sometimes when you're actually there on the site you can make out something of a pattern but not very easily,” added Kennedy. “Whereas if you go up just a hundred feet or so it, for me, comes sharply into focus what the shape is. ”Further research will be conducted to learn more about these stone structures and their role in Middle Eastern history and culture. 
They are often found on lava fields – but don’t fall into any pattern, according to Kennedy, whose research and results will be published in the new issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. He explains that they come in a huge variety of forms, some being ‘kites’, structures that funnelled animals, some being seemingly random meandering lines of stone and others being rectangular. None are believed to be aligned with the stars, which has added to the mystery surrounding their purpose.
They were actually first discovered in 1927 by an RAF pilot called Lt. Percy Maitland, but it wasn't until Professor Kennedy and his team began studying aerial and Google Earth photographs that their true extent was revealed. A final count has yet to be completed, but Kennedy is certain they run into the thousands.

Satellite images shows the lines in middle east:

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