The Nazca Lines are truely one of the world’s unresolved mysteries. And a flight over the Nazca lines is a fascinating experience. The Nazca Lines were scratched on the surface of the ground between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500 and they were declared an Archaeological World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.
While several of the designs represent a variety of giant animals such as a 180m-long lizard, a 90m-long monkey with an extravagantly curled tail or a condor with a 130m wingspan. Most of the lines are simple but perfect triangles, rectangles or straight lines running for several kilometers across the desert, to be best observed by plane.
The lines, thousands of them in all, were made by the Nazca and Paracas cultures by clearing darker rocks on the desert surface to expose lighter soil underneath.
Scientists still debate why the lines were built. Some of their theories are that they may have served as a calendar, a map of underground water supplies or even as landing strips for alien spaceships.
The Nazca Lines are located on the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the pampa (a large flat area of southern Peru).
This desolate plain located on the Peruvian coast is made up of the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and a few others in the province of Nasca about 249 miles south of Lima, and 90 miles south of Ica, in the department of Ica, covering an area of approximately 174 square miles. The Pan American Highway runs through part of the Nazca Lines Area. This is made up of sandy desert as well as some of the slopes of the Andes. They total about 300 figures looking like animals, straight lines, and geometric shapes.
The markings upon the Nazca Plain are preserved due to it’s dry climate, and flat stony ground without sand; which minimizes the effect of the wind at ground level. Thus, with no dust or sand to cover the plain, and little rain or wind to erode it, lines drawn here tend to stay drawn.
The small stones which cover the surface of the Nazca Plain contain ferrous oxide. The weather exposure of centuries has given the stones on the surface of the plain, a dark patina. When the small stones are moved or removed, they contrast with the color underneath. In this way the lines show as furrows of a lighter color in contrast to the dark patina of the surrounding stones.
The flight over the Nazca lines is highly dependable upon the weather conditions. The flights usely begin early in the morning when the weather is nice. Cloudy or bad weather can result in a couple of hours delay. One it clears again the flights resume.
Nazca is a relatively small town of about 30,000 people.
One of the best known researchers of the Nazca Lines was Maria Reiche; a German mathematician and archaeologist. She believed the lines were an Astronomical Calendar indicating the direction of stars, planets, and solar solstices.
Reiche led a determined effort to discredit theories of extraterrestrial visitors. She argued that the Nazca Indians constructed the Lines some time between 300 BC and AD 800. In support of this possibility, some scientists have put forward ingenious ideas on how the geoglyphs could theoretically have been designed from the ground. One is that they were supervised by observers in hot air ballons
Maria Reiche died in 1998 at the age of 95. She is now buried in the arid valley which she loved so much.
On the pampa, south of the Nazca Lines, archaeologists have now discovered the lost city of the line-builders, the Cahuachi. It was built nearly two thousand years ago and was mysteriously abandoned 500 years later.