|Apparently for many years, the town of Nazca, in the midst of the Peruvian desert - one of the driest places in the world - went more or less unnoticed by the world. In 1939, pilots flying over the desert in the newly invented planes started to report a strange phenomenon - there were over eight hundred lines, some converging, and some linking various drawings of animals and plants. Experts have since been debating over the significance of these mysterious lines - who made them, and why? Because the lines are so long and so large, they can only be appreciated in the air, hence popularising theories relating to aliens. Of course, I like the sound of that, and had to go and see for myself!
It would be pointless to go all the way to Nazca (two and a half hours away from Ica) without taking a flight in a light aircraft over the lines. They do have a watch tower off the main road, which offers view of three drawings - but I have been told it's not that great. So, with a sigh, I parted with my last remaining Soles (the Peruvian currency), which were supposed to last me for ten days, but in actuality...
My flight was booked for 11am, which would give me plenty of time to catch up with sleep. Unfortunately it also meant I was feeling hunger pains all the way until 1am, as many people have advised against eating before the flight. The plane was so small that all changes of turburlance can be felt, and the Captain was considerate to bank from left to right, and making numberous circles in the air, so that all passengers can have a good view of the lines.
I was picked up from my hotel and taken to the airport by my very own personal chauffer (ok, a taxi driver), and left to watch a half hour long video introducing the lines, how they were made, who made them, when, and various theories of the meanings. The volume was slightly on the quiet side, and not helped by the pet bird sqawking outside in the courtyard, plus the sound of other airplanes taking off and landing. Fortunately for me, I watched the video from the beginning, but my fellow passengers - a family from Texas, USA joined my about ten minutes into the video. And we were ushered onto the air strip before the video was even finished!
Ok, so what I have learnt?
A German mathematician, Maria Reiche dedicated half of her life mapping the lines, and making calculations. She discovered that they lined up perfectly with the stars in the ancient Nazca times (the people then were fantastic weavers and potters), hence making the lines which spread over an area of five hundred square kilometres the largest astrological calender in the world.
Some people believe this was evidence of extra terrestial life, either the aliens made the lines, or were used as a way of communicating with them, and welcoming them to earth (there is a drawing of an "astronaut", a manlike figure with a fish bowl head waving with one hand). However, the Museo de la Nación in Lima dimissed this angrily, and I quote; "There are some absurd theories which suggest that the glyphs were made by extraterrestials and not by ancient Peruvians. Denying that they were one of the greatest artistic expressions in the world (UNESCO described them to be mankind's greatest cultural heritage) would be non-sense and would discredit our roots."
The drawings depict various animals, such as a monkey, a whale, flamingo, dog etc. Well, what's interesting is that some of these animals cannot be found in the area. The monkeys are way over to the East of the country, in the jungle, across the Andean mountains. The whale is over to the north and west, very far away from Nazca. So how did they know of these animals? The ancient Nazcan were good tradesmen doing business up and down the coast, as there was evidence of Nazcan ceramics in Chavín, so they may have heard of them that way.
Another explanation is that the shamen (kinda like witch doctors) take some hallucinating drugs which make them go into a trance and imagine they can fly, etc. Some of the potteries show nasal discharges in their subjects, just like the shamen in the jungle. There was a video footage of jungle people in a trance, which was pretty weird. The same animals tend to occur all through the Americas, and nowhere else in the world!
New evidence also shows that at about the time of the Nazca lines, there was a long period of drought, which lasted fourteen years. So the drawings could also have been drawn to communicate with their Gods, as part of a religious ceremoney to ask for rain. Some of the converging lines point towards water sources, and the Ancient Nazcans may have walked along the line, perfectly in a straight line, as a procession. Some of the animals, such as the whale was discovered to be carrying a "trophy head", cut from their enemies, and used as a sacriface.
Well, enough about the theories, which I am sure you could find even more info on the internet!! I was slightly worried about the flight, not because I am scared of planes, but because of the various stories from travellers feeling sick. I actually really enjoyed it, sitting behind the pilot (dressed in crispy white shirt, sunglasses, and very pilot like!) with a fantastic view of the land below, and the odd lunges from the turbalance (not many).
The first glyph we sighted was the whale, which the pilot informed us was on our right hand side. Squinted and squinted and couldn't see the whale among the deeply scored lines, all I could see were the thick thick long lines stretching to the distance. Then I saw it, and it was unexpectedly small! We were given a flying certificate with a map on the back of the various glyths and locations, and very helpful in spotting what we needed to see. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take any photos, so will try to steal some from the internet a bit later!! :P