Nazca Lines, Peru’s greatest mysteries


Nazca lines are an assortment of massive geoglyphs. The lines appear in geometric patterns and different animal shapes across the Peruvian desert. These lines can only be sufficiently appreciated from the air since they are enormous. They are said to have been drawn by the ancient Nazca people of South America.

There are about three basic types of Nazca Lines: straight lines, geometric designs, and pictorial representations. Some of the geoglyphs that can be seen include over 800 straight lines on the coastal plain, some of which are 30miles (48 km) long, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1200 feet in length as considerable as the Empire State Building.

There are representations of over 300 geometric designs of basic shapes like rectangles, trapezoids, triangles, zigzags, spirals, and arrows.

The lines are famously known for their illustrations of about 70 animals and plants of massive height. Some of these include; cactus, Ilama, dog, lizard, whale, plant, hummingbird, duck, and spider.

The Nazca people also created other forms, such as a humanoid figure (nicknamed “The Astronaut”), hands, and unidentifiable depictions.

These Nazca lines were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. Despite being studied for nearly 100years, the geoglyphs are still a mystery to researchers, thus many unfounded theories.


They are found in the Peruvian coastal plain about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Lima, Peru, near the modern town of Nazca. The area in which the lines are drawn is called Pampa Colorada (Red Plain). The desert is made of dark red surface stones and soil with lighter-colored subsoil underneath, and the lines were created by removing the darker layer to reveal the lighter one.


A systematic study of the lines began in 1926. Peruvian archeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe carried it out, but the geoglyphs only gained widespread attention after pilots flew over them during the 1930s. Since then, the experts have taken to debating the purpose of the Nazca Lines. 80 to 100 new figures have been found using drones over the years, and archaeologists believe more to be found.

Late in the 1930s and early 1940s, an American historian Paul Kosok came with his assistant, Maria Reiche, to study the geoglyphs from the ground and air. Kosok concluded that the geoglyphs had an astronomy-related purpose. It was based on one of the lines he had investigated during the winter solstice to the sun.

Maria Reiche, a German archaeologist and translator, later concluded that the designs had an astronomical and calendrical purpose. She believed that some of the animal geoglyphs represented groups of stars in the sky.

The Nazca culture is believed to have created a majority of the existing Nazca lines. This culture began around 100 BC, and the bars were built between 500 BC and AD 500. They were created by making shallow openings in the desert floor, removing rocks, and leaving a differently colored texture of soil exposed. The lines are located in the Rio Grande de Nazca river basin, an archeological site bigger than 75,000 hectares. This portion of the desert is one of the driest places on earth. The Paracas and Chavin cultures which preexisted in this area may have also created some of the geoglyphs.

Most of the lines are straight, but there are also designs in animals and plants. All the lines combined make up a length of over 1,300 km (800 mi), and the group covers an acreage of about 50 km2 (19 sq mi). The lines are 10 to 15 cm (4–6 in) in depth. The width of the lines is different according to different spaces, but most of them are slightly over 33 cm (13 in) wide. In some places, the width of the lines may be up to 30 cm (12 in), and in others, 1.8 m (6 ft) wide.

Due to the low amounts of rain, wind, and erosion in the desert, the geoglyphs have remained largely unmarked over the years.

Maria Reiche.

Maria Reich Grosse-Neumann is known for her research into the Nazca lines. She first saw the lines in 1941 with American historian Paul Kosok to whom she was then an assistant. She is now known as the “Lady of the Lines” as she dedicated her life to documenting, preserving, and publicly disseminating the Nazca Lines.

Reiche, born on 15 May 1903 and died 8 June 1998, was a German-born Peruvian. She was a mathematician, technical translator, and archeologist. Reiche lived near the lines in her quest to protect them and was recognized as curator of the lines. She helped to gain the World Heritage Site title from UNESCO in 1994 through gaining international and local attention for the archeological site hence Peru’s established protection.

She received recognition from the National University of San Marcos as Doctor Honoris Causa. She discovered during her studies that Nazca’s figures have a mathematical precision that is highly sophisticated. Reiche stated that the builders of the lines used the lines as a sun calendar for observing astronomical cycles. Her former residence is presently a museum dedicated to her life’s work.

The Different Shapes and Forms of the Nazca Lines.

In 1930, some pilots discovered the Nazca Lines as they were crossing the Nazca desert by plane. After that, geologists took a deep interest in these lines and tried to find the secret behind creating these permanent geoglyphs. There are over 70 different designs in these Nazca Lines.  Maria Reiche, a German archaeologist, dedicated a lot of her research to the region and measured and mapped most of the Lines thoroughly.

The Nazca Lines include straight lines and geometric shapes and stylized depictions of animals, humans, and plants. The figures include but are not limited to:

  • Spider
  • Condor
  • Hands
  • Humanoid figure. “the astronaut”
  • Monkey.
  • Hummingbird
  • Tree
  • Ilama
  • Dog
  •  Whale
  •  Duck

Whatever the reason for creating the Nazca lines, we hope that they will remain for many future generations. History is the portion that should never be ignored if we are to enjoy a sustainable future. The past teaches us about ancient mentality and behavioral patterns that often answer pending questions.

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