Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nazca Lines Still Provoke Mystery


Since their startling discovery in Peru’s coastal area during the 1920s, mystery still surrounds the so-called Nazca lines, depicting several massive images decipherable only from high altitudes.
The vast majority of the lines 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.
According to LiveScience.com:
The purpose of the lines continues to elude researchers and remains a matter of conjecture. Ancient Nazca culture was prehistoric, which means they left no written records.  
One idea is that they are linked to the heavens with some of the lines representing constellations in the night sky. Another idea is that the lines play 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.
In the absence of a firm archaeological conclusion a number of fringe theories have popped up, especially several aligned with “ancient astronaut” theories. A less radical suggestion is that the Nazca people used balloons to observe the lines from high altitudes, something for which there still is no archaeological evidence.

1 comment:

Al West said...

The best summary of work on the lines is to be found in Moseley (2001), 'The Incas and their Ancestors', pp. 201-203. If the people of the Nazca valley had discovered a way of viewing the geoglyphs from above, they evidently forgot the technology and told no one else about it.

It would also mean that the people cared little for the glyphs, as most of them have been cut into by other glyphs of a later date, indicating either that they did not observe them from above (the most plausible option) or that they found a way of observing the land from above, carved glyphs by observation from above that partially obscure older glyphs, and then forgot the technology enabling this.

The most parsimonious interpretation is that the glyphs were not seen directly from above by any humans until the invention of aircraft in the early twentieth century. The glyphs were probably ritual walkways, designed using stakes and string. No crazy explanation is necessary, nor even the positing of a plausible but unattested technology.