Case File: Nazca Lines
Location: Nazca Plateau, Peru
Description: The Nazca Lines are large patterns of artwork etched into the ground in Nazca, Peru. Some take the shape of animals and strange creatures.
History: The Nazca Lines are one of Earth's most fascinating and unsolved archaeological mysteries. Located on the eastern corner of the Nazca Plateau in Western Peru, enormous patterns of artwork in the form of animals are etched in to the ground for unknown reasons. Some of the drawings include: a large spider (created with one connecting line), a monkey (the size of two football fields), and long, straight lines that go on for miles.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the ancient Nazcas, famous for their ceramic art, inscribed the giant drawings between 1,500 and 2,500 years ago. However, they left little behind to tell the meaning of the figures or how they were made.
They were first discovered by the Spanish in the middle of the 16th Century, but they did not reach scientific scrutiny until 1941. Just what the reason for their existence is unknown. Many believe the giant images were create to placate the gods, while others believe the images are evidence of ancient extra-terrestrial contact. Even more astounding is the debate on how these images were created.
Background: Nazca, Peru is a city and system of valleys on the southern coast of Peru. The Nazca culture flourished in the area between 100 BC and 800 AD.
Investigations: German mathematician Maria Reiche spent decades studying the Nazca Plateau. She concluded that the lines and figures pointed to various constellations in the sky.
In the late 1960s, author Erich Von Daniken proposed that some of the markings were giant landing strips for alien spacecraft. In his book, "Chariots of the Gods?", he suggests that the ancient Nazcas regarded the aliens as gods and constructed the runways under their direct orders. He identified an 840 foot marking as a signpost, pointing the way to the landing strip. Another drawing, according to him, was an alien in a spacesuit.
Dr. Reinhard and others believe that the plateau was used as an outdoor cathedral. In 1982, professor Anthony Aveni and several others attempted to recreate the drawings with the most basic of tools. Within a few hours, the group of twelve was able to make a line that was about twenty yards long and two yards wide. However, they still could not understand how the Nazcas created the large figures from ground level.
Author and explorer Jim Woodman believes that the Nazcas were able to create the figures by viewing from above. He hired Peruvian craftsmen to stitch together a hot air balloon from materials that would have been available centuries ago. A campfire provided the hot air. The balloon was successful at viewing the drawings from the sky.
However, some scientists believe that the Nazca Lines were intended to be viewed from ground level. They note that some of the straight lines would have been used as roads. They believe that the other figures were used to help them pray to their gods.
Extra Notes: This segment first ran on Unsolved Mysteries in the April 19, 1996 episode.