Naza Lines: Other Geoglyphs Worldwide

Other geoglyphs

South America

The lines at Nazca aren’t the only landscape figures this region boasts. 850 miles south of Nazca is perhaps the world’s largest human figure, etched into the side of Solitary Mountain. The Giant of Atacama at Cerro Unitas is an incredible 393 feet high and is surrounded by lines similar to those at Nazca. In fact there is a copy of this image at Nazca, although the only place I have seen it mentioned is in Erich von Daniken’s “Arrival of the Gods”.

Below are drawings of llamas, with large images of birds, lizards, fish, crosses, humans and patterns also appearing in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.



Just 130 miles from Nazca, dug into a sloping hill at Pisco Bay on the Peruvian coast, this drawing looks very much like a candlestick – which gives it the name of “The Candelabra of the Andes”. There has been much speculation about the purpose of the 595 foot high candelabra, but no definitive answer. It is constructed in a different manner to the Nazca lines, using trenches up to one metre in depth, and is best viewed from out at sea – it can be seen from as far away as 12 miles. Pottery found near the figure has been carbon dated to 200 BC.

Other, less mysterious lines and figures have been found within Peru – between the Fortaleza, Pativilca and Rimac valleys, in the Viru Valley (on the north coast), the Sierra Pintada (the painted mountains) and in the Zana Valley, over 1,000 km to the north of Nazca.*

And these at Santa Valley:

Detail of Santa Valley, Peru. The scale represents 10 meters. Ignore the vertical double line – it is not a geoglyph but rather the azimuth heading of 280-degrees.


Along the Colorado river between southern Nevada and the Gulf of California are more than 200 huge figures. The first to be discovered was the giant near Blythe, California by a pilot in 1923.

Found just north of Quartzite, Arizona, is the Bouse Fisherman:

You might also want to check out a star burst at China Lake, California, and the giant of Paradise Valley in Southwestern Montana that is around 1,287 ft. long with an arm span of about 330 ft!


The English geoglyphs are mostly chalk figures, which require constant maintenance to stop them disappearing back beneath grass and soil. This lack of durability means that many others are bound to have disappeared centuries ago.

The Uffington White Horse and the Long man of Wilmington, are famous. Visit the Hillfigure Homepage for 41 other British figures.


Humans are still busy making geoglyphs, perhaps with more ease than earlier examples. Australia has a few modern geoglyphs, such as the Marree Man, constructed in 1998, and 4 kms tall – and a Giant Wallaby. You can also check out another recent one at Munich Airport.

(*) Wilson, David J.; “Desert Ground Drawings in the Lower Santa Valley, North Coast of Peru,” American Antiquity,” 53:794, 1988

Nazca Lines: What do they mean? Part 2 – Belt of Orion

Belt of Orion?

The lines appear random unless they are viewed from a great height.  Only then does it become obvious that many of the lines originate from common points.  In fact, there is only one line that doesn’t.  The others radiate out from common points, as if stars were being drawn. 

Is it possible that the “radiating centres” are a map of the stars?  When Aveni’s plan of the ray centres is held next to a sky chart, the similarity is uncanny.  The connection is made stronger if we let the Nazca River Valley represent the Milky Way, just as the ancient Egyptians did with the Nile.

Alongside the Nile, the Giza pyramids have been shown to have the same pattern as the Belt of Orion.  Three of the Nazcan “stars” are more prominent than the others, and they almost form a straight line of their own, although the third is slightly astray.  Their relationship appears to be the same as the Giza pyramids, imitating the belt of Orion.  Could this be true?  If it were, then perhaps they are part of a global pattern of coded messages, warning us of another flood will come sometime in the future.

Images sourced from:





Or then again, perhaps the Nazca Lines are a terrestrial map. The image on the left shows the portolan design lines extracted from the Piri Reis map. Does it make sense, that if the Piri Reis map is the most accurate ancient map found to date, that another ancient map (which happens to be huge and drawn on the ground) would have similar lines upon it?

Hopefully somebody will have the time and patience to compare the Nazca map with every location on Earth and perhaps find that it fits somewhere…

**The Piri Reis map also features some strange animals!

Other instances of this pattern could have come from a common ancient knowledge, like:

Pyramids of Teotihuacan

Furthering the link with Giza is the city of Cahuachi, just south of the lines.  Today it is almost indistinguishable from the desert surrounding it, yet it covers 370 acres and contains plazas, terraces and some 40 structures.  There are six pyramids – the largest of which is 30 metres high.[16] [17] [18]

It appears that Cahuachi was a ceremonial centre, with few people actually living there.  Puzzling mortuary practices occurred at Cahuachi.  Ninety percent of the skulls found have the distinctive cabeza larga (long head) type of deformation.19]

This was achieved by wrapping the heads of newborn babies with leather or wood, causing their skulls to grow into extraordinary shapes.  Many of the dismembered skulls have also had round holes cut into their foreheads, a practice known as trepanning.20]

Further clues of an advanced society can be found nearby.  The Nazca Indians may have been living in a barren area, but they managed to cope quite well.  They created a system of underground channels to bring them water from kilometres away, and some of their hydraulic schemes are still in working order. 

As time passes by, more and more Nazcan mysteries are being brought to light, with few (if any) being solved.

Catastrophic Links

As noted above, the Nazca site has many connections to a cyclical global catastrophe

  • The site is designed to last a long time
  • The site is coded with symbols
  • Gigantic dimensions have been used
  • The reoccurrence of serpents and pyramids
  • A “star map” depicting the Belt of Orion, and the Milky Way

Even the name Nazca is a possible clue.  The town has had this title since the Spanish Conquest, and presumably from when the lines and figures were created.  It is quite likely that this name was sourced from the Quechuan word nanay, which means “pain”.[21]  If the drawings upon the desert were intended to tell of a great tragedy, then the name for this place is wholly appropriate.  The images are rather simplistic, and showing agony or fear on their faces would have required an extra dimension of skill.  A quick and easy way of bypassing this problem was to name the lines “pain”, and let us make the connection for ourselves. 

The site is an appropriate one for describing a cataclysm, more so than just the irony of the area’s dryness.  In 1983 the El Nino phenomenon caused a lot of rain to fall in Peru.  Some towns experienced rain every day for several months, whereas normally they would only receive a tenth of an inch annually.  Landslides wrecked homes and took out sections of the Pan American highway.  Bridges were washed out and crops ruined.  In 1925 the floods reached depths of ten feet.  Careful examination of Peruvian river valleys has determined that a flood in 1100 AD was at least 50 feet deep![22]  In an area which usually gets less than half an inch of rain in a year!

Peru is also a land of severe earthquakes.  In 1970, one such quake took the lives of 70,000 Peruvians, including an entire town that disappeared under a mudslide.  These are the types of disaster that occurred 10,000 years ago, floods and earthquakes, which makes Peru a perfect location for memorials and reminders of what happened.  This is why the geoglyphs of the Nazca Plain exist – they are telling a story.



[17] UNESCO Courier, Mar98, Vol. 51 Issue 3, p44, 5p, 12c

[18] William Duncan Strong, Paracas, Nazca, and Tiahuanacoid Cultural Relationships in South Coastal Peru, from American Antiquity, Volume XXII, Number 4, Part 2, April 1957, page 31.  The Society for American Archaeology.

[19] William Duncan Strong, Paracas, Nazca, and Tiahuanacoid Cultural Relationships in South Coastal Peru, from American Antiquity, Volume XXII, Number 4, Part 2, April 1957, page 14.  The Society for American Archaeology.


[21] Evan Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru, Random House 1987 ,page 62

[22] Evan Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru, Random House 1987 ,page 45

[23] Evan Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru, Random House 1987 ,page 38


Nazca Lines: What do they mean? Part 1

Who were they created for?

Although some of the lines can be discerned from nearby hills, the majority can only be seen from the air, with some of them only visible from specific angles.  Erich Von Däniken, who presumably did not consider any other possibilities, suggested that the figures were signals for spaceships, which would then land on the plain using the lines as runways.  Taking time to discredit this theory (whereas most academics just laughed) Maria Reiche pointed out that the underlying ground is rather soft and the poor spacemen would have got stuck![9] 

But why else would the etchings have been made so large, or even made at all? 

When studied under a microscope, some fabric from robbed Nazca tombs was found to be more finely woven than modern day parachute material.  This gave an idea to a group from the International Explorers Society, who decided to construct a balloon made only from local vegetable fibres and reeds.  The hot air was sourced from a simple fire pit. 

This “Condor I” was launched in November 1975 and took two balloonists to a height of 180 metres before a gust of wind returned them to the ground.  After they jumped out, Condor I escaped and took off across the desert, rising to 350 metres, proving that it would have indeed been possible for the Nazca Indians to see the lines from above.[10]  Jim Woodman (one of the balloonists) thought that the Nazca Indians could have used similar hot-air balloons for “ceremonial flights”.[11]

( More details on the Condor I )

Unfortunately, the air is not still above the Nazca lines, with the wind typically reaching 25 knots.  A team from the University of Minnesota launched a balloon in June 1984, and on its very first flight it was wrecked by these strong winds – which implies that the ancient locals would have encountered similar problems.[12]

The Nazca Indians may have had their own uses for the lines.  So might have an earlier culture, one that stealthily created them many millennia ago.  Or could they have been left there for humans of a distant future, hoping to inform them of something very important?

What do they mean?

Almost everyone that studies this site comes up with a different idea.  Some of these are: 

  • Astronomical alignments
  • Weaving patterns
  • Indicating subterranean water flow, found via rod dowsing
  • Representations of gods, tribal clans or shamanic spirit animals
  • A hieroglyphic writing system
  • Work therapy
  • Used as athletic tracks
  • A map of somewhere (Lake Titicaca has been suggested)

Another suggestion comes from art historian Alan Sawyer.  “Most figures are composed of a single line that never crosses itself, perhaps the path of a ritual maze.  If so, when the Nazcas walked the line, they could have felt they were absorbing the essence of whatever the drawing symbolized.”[13]

With the desert being so incredibly dry, water is obviously of great value to anyone living there.  The ancient Nazcan inhabitants created a vast system of waterworks, consisting of wells 50 feet deep and 40-odd underground aqueducts, which cut across the Nazca River valley.  Water was channelled from a handful of springs to provide drinking and water and irrigation for crops.  Some of the aqueducts are several miles long and large enough for a person to crawl along.  They are deep below the surface to protect the water from evaporation, with inspection wells every hundred metres to help the Indians clear away any debris.  Despite their great age, many of these still function properly.  One of the old aqueducts was even extended in 1955 to deliver more drinking water to the town of Nazca.[14]

Anthony Aveni (Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology at Colgate University) observed that “most of the line centers are located along the river banks, tributaries, and bases of the mountains from where the drainage proceeds.”  The fact that large geometric shapes either point upstream (60%) or downstream (40%), adds weight to his argument that the lines are there to mark water tables.[15]  But there is no connection between water and the animal figures.  A proven, cohesive theory, covering all aspects of the lines and figures is yet to emerge.

Maria Reiche was the first to suggest the astronomical theory.  Certain lines could predict where important stars would rise, on special days.  Figures like the spider and monkey might represent constellations, in a similar fashion to the Zodiac.  Unfortunately, there are just too many lines.  If there were a dozen or so, and most of them had an astronomical alignment, then the point would be proven.  But there are 800 lines, of varying lengths and widths, each pointing in a different direction.  By chance alone some must appear to have astronomical importance.  

Professor Gerald Hawkins (author of Stonehenge Decoded) and his group went to Nazca to investigate the idea.  Using special software, they checked star positions for the last 6900 years, and checked them against the lines.  After weeks of study they concluded that there were alignments, but no more than could be attributed to chance.  To illustrate this, Hawkins checked out Reiche’s claim that the Great Rectangle aligned with the Pleiades constellation in 610 AD.  She was accurate.  But if she had suggested alignment with the rise of Regulus in 410 AD, or the setting of Antares in 210 AD, she would also have been correct.  Anthony Aveni obtained similar results in 1982.  In addition, Reiche failed to explain why the lines had different lengths and widths.

What did impress Hawkins was the straightness of the lines; on average they only deviate by two metres per kilometre, even over hills – as we see here, which von Daniken appropriately described as a ski jump.

All except one of the lines radiate from common points, creating star-like patterns.  Many of these “radiating centres” are actually small hills, perhaps fifty feet in height.  This is hard to appreciate from the air, but if one observes them from ground level, they are obviously an important aspect of the layout. 

Drowned Animals?

By looking at the lines from a catastrophic viewpoint, a partial solution can be arrived at. 

This is one of the driest spots on the planet.[†]  This means that primitive people were unlikely to live here, and if they did, unlikely to evolve into a technological culture, which would require the luxuries of free time and abundant essentials.  This is therefore one of the last places you would expect humans to achieve flight.  So perhaps the lines weren’t meant to be seen until we did manage to fly.  This would ensure that they could remain undisturbed until a modern era, in which we would probably have the ability to decipher their meaning.  Which is now.

The drawings cover all the important genera – animal, bird, fish, insect and plant.  The story being told here is not unlike that of Noah’s Ark from the Bible.  Whereas Noah managed to rescue two of every species, the Nazca Plain shows us what happened to all the rest – they drowned.  It shows how they have been swept together from diverse locations and dumped in one spot.  They are flat, distorted and bent.  Whoever designed the creatures had the ability to render them accurately, but they chose not to.  Some call them stylised, I call them twisted. 

There are no pairs[‡].  Single animals represent the end of the line.  Pairs (like Adam and Eve) represent fertility and survival.  “They” have created, ironically, a description of the greatest flood that ever was, upon one of the driest stretches of land on Earth.  But what about the straight lines?

[†] The deserts of this area are the driest places on Earth, with the absolute record belonging to the Atacama Desest, 600 kilometres south of Nazca.

[‡] With the exception of a pair of llamas. They were constructed using a different technique to all the others figures, suggesting that they came from a different culture or time period.

[9]McIntyre, Loren. 1975. :Mystery of the Ancient Nazca Lines.” National Geographic (May): 716-28.

[10] The Marshall Travel Atlas of Mysterious Places, Marshall Editions, 1977, p102

[11] Woodman, Jim. 1977. Nazca: Journey to the Sun. New York: Pocket Books.

[12] Evan Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru, Random House 1987 ,page 43

[13]McIntyre, Loren. 1975. :Mystery of the Ancient Nazca Lines.” National Geographic (May): 716-28.

[14] Evan Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru, Random House 1987 ,page 189

[15] Possibly from >The Lines of Nazca, ed. Anthony Aveni (American Philosophical Society, 1990) or Between the Lines

Naza Lines: Who created them?

Who created the lines?

The Nazca Indians are thought to have existed here between 200 AD and 600 AD, making them the most likely constructors in the eyes of orthodox archaeology.  There is little doubt that the Nazca Indians were at least contemporaneous to the lines.  Much of their pottery used similar styles and motifs, and carbon dating associated with the lines appears to confirm this:  

·        The desert heat causes mushrooms and lichens to grow under the stones.  The organic matter on nine of these stones, presumably up-turned to make the lines, have been carbon-dated to between 190 BC and 600 AD. 

·        A wooden stake at the end of a line was dated to roughly 525 AD.[3]

Lacking any evidence to suggest prior cultures living there, it is a reasonable hypothesis that gives these lines an uppermost age of just two thousand years.  But there still remains a possibility that others may have stopped there briefly to construct the lines, then disappeared without leaving any clues to who they were.  Because of the impossibility of dating the lines themselves, it is possible that they could be even ten thousand years old!

But how could markings etched upon the desert this long ago remain virtually intact -undisturbed by the forces of weather and time?  Well, this is a desert of stones, and the stones absorb heat.  The resulting cushion of warm air helps protect the surface from the effects of wind.  And it only drizzles rain here for an average of twenty minutes each year, with most years being completely dry, so there is zero erosion.  If there ever was some gradual deterioration of the lines, they may have been restored from time to time.  Humans have a habit of repairing sites, especially if they have a ritual importance, such as the chalk figures in the English countryside.

How were the lines created?


·         The Spider, (46 metres long)

·         The Killer Whale, (65m)

·         The Monkey, (55m)

·         The Lizard, (180m)

·         The Guano Bird, (280m)

·         The Hummingbird, (50m)

·         The Pelican – an incredible 285 metres long

There are a total of 70 creatures on the Nazca Plain, as well as drawings of flowers and plants, deformed creatures and inanimate objects. Is it possible that there were once 72? If so, this would create a mathematical connection to sites such as Angkor Wat which also use this number. 

It is normal for the figures to be asymmetrical.  Where they have fingers, the numbers will vary from limb to limb.  An example this is the drawing of a weird being with two enormous hands, one normal and the other with only four fingers. The monkey has three toes, with four fingers on one hand and five on the other.  The dog has either an extra leg or an extra tail.  The spider has one leg that is far longer than the other seven.[4] 

There are also a few anthropomorthic figures situated on the slopes, the most famous being the 32 metre Astronaut (below left) and E.T, discovered by Eduardo Herran in 1982. Others include The Man with the Hat (below right) and the Executioner. These are the most primitive figures at Nazca, and probably belong to a different time and purpose.

Maria Reiche thought that the Nazca artists prepared preliminary drawings on small six-foot-square plots, some of which are still visible near some of the larger figures.  The drawings were then subdivided into small sections, to be transposed onto the desert on a larger scale.  Lines could easily have been formed by stretching a rope between two posts.  A rope radiating from a central point could be used to create arcs and circles.  In fact, the remains of posts have been discovered[5], as well as holes in the centre of circles.  But their skilled use of relative positioning puzzled Maria.  In her book she wrote, “Ancient Peruvians must have had instruments and equipment which we ignore and which together with ancient knowledge were buried and hidden from they eyes of the conquerors as the one treasure which was not to be surrendered.” [6]

Maybe it wasn’t so difficult after all?  In 1981, volunteers from the Earthwatch organization had a go at it.  Evan Hadingham, author of Lines of the Mountain Gods, participated and described the process:

“We selected a remote corner of the Nazca Valley for our experiment, far from any genuine ancient markings.  Though the surface here was rougher than that of most parts of the pampa I had seen, consisting of coarse volcanic stones, it was easy to create the color contrast required for our line.  All we had to do was peel away the crust of dark brown surface rocks to reveal the dusty yellow-white clay immediately beneath.

Our reconstruction began with a simple surveying procedure: we lined up two tall poles to coincide with a cleft in the distant horizon and then stretched the string between them.  This formed one border of our line.  To set out the other border, we measured off another pair of poles side by side with the first.

Within the avenue of string thus created, we spread ourselves out at arm’s length, one behind the other.  The idea was that each volunteer would squat on the ground and gather up all the stones within arm’s reach into a single pile.  This seemed an efficient way to collaborate on removing the surface.  Moreover, it reproduced the small, regularly spaced stone heaps still visible inside many (presumably unfinished) cleared figures.

The final phase was to get rid of the piles by spreading the stones out along the borders of the line.  At this stage it was useful to have “Chief Priest Aveni” standing by to point out where the edges of the line still appeared ragged or crooked.  Eventually the strings were removed, and the result looked remarkably like the perfectly straight avenues we were emulating.”[7]

They went on to add a smooth spiral to the end of the line, and Hadingham wondered whether the skills required by the Nazcans were so amazing after all?

To take it one stage further, in 1982 Joe Nickell of Kentucky, USA, and some family members, successfully recreated the 440-foot-long condor in a field near their home.  They took nine hours to plot and stake 165 points and connect them with twine.  The resulting image (they used white lime to mark it) was an exact replica.

“The method we chose was quite simple: We would establish a center line and locate points on the drawing by plotting their coordinates.  That is, on the small drawing we would measure along the center line from one end (the bird’s beak) to a point on the line directly opposite the point to be plotted (say a wing tip). Then we would measure the distance from the center line to the desired point. A given number of units on the small drawing would require the same number of units–larger units–on the large drawing.

For this larger unit we used one gleaned by Maria Reiche from her study of the Nazca drawings and approximately equivalent to 12.68 inches.  For measuring on the ground, we prepared ropes marked off with paint into these Nazca “feet,” with a knot tied at each ten-”foot” interval for a total length of 100 units.  To aid in accuracy in plotting on the ground, we decided to employ a “T” made of two slender strips of wood.  With this we could ensure that each measurement made from the center line would be at approximate right-angles to the line.”[8]

[3] Table 4.  Radiocarbon Dates.  Middle Nazca L-268H San Jose Pampa: small post from intersection of ground lines, No 421 525 ± 80.  William Duncan Strong, Paracas, Nazca, and Tiahuanacoid Cultural Relationships in South Coastal Peru, from American Antiquity, Volume XXII, Number 4, Part 2, April 1957, page 46.  The Society for American Archaeology.

[4] It has been mentioned by other researchers that many of the creatures represented are not native to the area.  The most striking example of this is the 45 metre long Spider.  It was identified as a member of the rare genus Ricinulei, which is only found in the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon Jungle.  These spiders are only 5-10 mm in length.  One leg is noticeably longer – it is a protrusible tube, and at its tip is the spider’s reproductive organ, normally only visible with the aid of a microscope.( first determined by Hawkins, Beyond Stonehenge, Arrow Books, London, 1977)

This information appears to signify an advanced ancient culture at work, but fails when inspected more closely.  The only similarity between the spider figure and a Ricinulei is the extended leg.  Otherwise the figure could be just a common local spider. 

[5] Along some lines, the remains of posts have been found at roughly one-mile intervals. See McIntyre, Loren. 1975. :Mystery of the Ancient Nazca Lines.” National Geographic (May): pages 716-28.

[6] Reiche, Maria. 1976. Mystery on the Desert (1968), rev. ed. Stuttgart: Privately printed.

[7] Evan Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru, Random House 1987 ,page 135-6

[8] The Nazca Lines Revisited: Creation of a Full-Sized Duplicate, by Joe Nickell. THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, copyright ©1983,

Nazca Lines: Introduction

The Nazca Lines

>>>> Some Nazca Links <<<<
A good map of the Nazca Lines is hard to find. A 1:10,000 topographical map is listed for sale at South American Explorers for $13, plus there is a map of the figures at Peru Expeditions .


The world is full of mysterious places that have outlived the history of their construction. These are the pyramids, citadels, stone circles and statues that are much written about and are visited by hordes of tourists.

One quality that makes humans unique is their ability to create and appreciate works of art. Determining which ancient sites are art, and which are something more, is a tough call to make. Therefore, for the purposes of this book, I have set three requirements that can help us make such a decision. If the purpose of a site is to inform us about a cyclical global catastrophe, it must:

1. Be able to survive long periods of time

Whether the period between catastrophes is 1,000 or 100,000 years, the site must be able to endure the extremes of weather and human interaction. I doubt that any structure built today is designed to last even one millennium, and there is a reason for that – they don’t need to. Yet, globally there are sites that have outlasted the very cultures that built them – often of such gigantic dimensions it would be difficult to recreate them today.

2. Use the universal languages of numbers or symbols

Written languages are impossible to rely on, for they keep on changing. Not only are they affected by the latest fads and fashions, they can disappear altogether due to the assimilations and annihilations that are caused by cultural conflict. Just look at today’s near extinction of the Gaelic language, and how difficult it is to read Shakespeare’s “English” today. Languages will always change, whereas mathematics is a universal constant. A building four times as long as it is wide will always represent a ratio of 4:1, no matter how old it gets, or who studies it. Symbols are not perfect, but are still far more stable than words. Especially so if they resemble a constellation, an animal, a shape and so on. Hieroglyphs that use indirect representations are more difficult to decipher, yet most of them have eventually been decoded.

3. Contain coded information concerning the nature of such a catastrophe

This is the hardest aspect to determine. A good example is the Great Pyramid of Giza. We have always known of its antiquity, and in the last century we have become aware of the mathematics contained within its dimensions. But is it trying to tell us something? Theories abound and can become overwhelming. Therefore I have chosen to concentrate on a single, succinct idea, the cyclical global catastrophe, and apply it to not only the Giza complex, but every ancient site I study.

The Nazca lines conform to these three rules. They are at least 1500 years old, and are capable of lasting very much longer than that. That they embody symbols is obvious, and it is my belief that they describe the Great Flood.

General Information

The Nazca lines and figures cover a total area of 520 square kilometres.[1] They are situated 400 kilometres south of Lima on the Pampa Colorada – a desolate plain between the Peruvian coast and the Andes Mountains (see this map of Peru ). It is a rocky desert, rather than a sandy one. Its surface is covered in small stones that are dark red because they contain ferrous oxide. These have been cleared away to expose the lighter-coloured soil underneath, creating a multitude of lines.

Dozens of stylised figures have also been etched onto the desert, creating the world’s largest piece of art. The figures have each been drawn using a singular continuous line, with the largest being some 285 metres long. There are 70 figures in total. In the most part they are creatures, such as a hummingbird, llama or dog – however a flower, loom and geometric shapes can also be seen.

It has been mentioned by other researchers that many of the creatures represented are not native to the area. The most striking example of this is the 45 metre long Spider. It was identified as a member of the rare genus Ricinulei, which is only found in the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon Jungle. These spiders are only 5-10 mm in length. One leg is noticeably longer – it is a protrusible tube, and at its tip is the spider’s reproductive organ, normally only visible with the aid of a microscope.[2]


nazca spider
(C) 1979 Georges Rosset

Spider from Etowah Mounds


This information appears to signify an advanced ancient culture at work, but fails when inspected more closely. The only similarity between the spider figure and a Ricinulei is the extended leg. Otherwise the figure could be just a common local spider. Or the same as the depiction found at the Etowah Mounds (USA). Many of the figures on the plain have an extra leg or pathway attached to them – all we have here is a coincidental stylisation.

Overlaying the figures are 800 straight lines, some stretching far away, over hills and into the distance. The longest attain a length of eight kilometres, with one being an incredible 65 kilometres long! The lines were formed on top of the drawings and cut right through them. This suggests that they were created at a later date, unless of course this effect was done deliberately.

Pilots first noticed them in the 1920s. In 1941 Dr Paul Kosok from the Long Island University was despatched to survey them. Once there, he found the faint outline of a bird – the first animal figure to be discovered. He also realised that most of the lines fanned out from “radiating centres”, and decided that they described astronomical information. To survey Nazca properly would take many years, and he was too busy on other projects to do it himself. He found his replacement in a German woman who was translating an academic paper into Spanish for him. Maria Reiche had shifted to Peru in 1932 to work as a private teacher, but before long she was teaching languages and translating. Initially Reiche made short visits to the lines from her home in Lima. But as time went by, and she became more and more dedicated to solving the enigma, she moved closer to the lines – shifting from a Nazca hotel to a ranch that was within walking distance of the lines. After a decade on the ranch, she decided to live on-site, eventually dedicating her remaining 50 years to studying the patterns and working toward a solution.

It was Reiche who discovered the other animal figures. None of these were observable from the air until she had carefully cleaned away the dust of centuries that obscured them. She agreed with Kosok that their meaning was derived from astronomy, and was unable to consider other possibilities. She privately published a book on the subject, but failed to conclusively prove her theories.

Apart from the multitude of straight lines, Maria found triangles, “needle and thread” patterns, trapezoids, a labyrinth and spirals. There are more than a hundred spirals. Near the centre of one she found a stone engraved with a serpent design and a severed head – prompting her to believe that every spiral at Nazca represented a serpent. The image below is from a textile that was wrapped around a mummy found near Nazca.

Her contribution was more than just highlighting the lines’ presence – she protected them as well. Human feet and vehicles can easily ruin the lines. Right up until her death at 95, Reiche almost single-handedly saved the lines from being ruined by trespassers, even known to chase them away in her wheelchair. Thanks to her efforts, which also kept governments and private enterprise at bay, the lines have now been declared a ”world cultural heritage site” by UNESCO.

Because of their huge size, the only way to appreciate the lines and images is from the air, which automatically poses the question: Did ancient cultures have a means of flying? Authors such as Erich von Däniken latched onto this idea, and have used this site as the cornerstone of their Ancient Astronaut hypothesis, ignoring any non-UFO explanations.*]

There are other questions we can ask that are more productive in our search for a solution…


[*] Whether or not UFO’s exist is outside the scope of this book.

[1] The Marshall Travel Atlas of Mysterious Places, Marshall Editions, 1977, p98

[2] The Marshall Travel Atlas of Mysterious Places, Marshall Editions, 1977, p98, first determined by Hawkins, Beyond Stonehenge, Arrow Books, London, 1977