As our Cessna plane lifts off the Nazca airport runway and banks hard to the right my thoughts are about the geoglyphs I’ll see. I’ve seen these in pictures and documentaries but now I get to see them personally. What are the Nazca lines? Why and how were they made? By or for aliens, for the Gods, for some reason yet to be discovered? Looking down at the ground I realize the actual complexity of these criss-crossing lines and the vastness of the area they cover.
This Nazca flight was booked as part of my Peru Hop bus service. The cost was $79 USD but about another $20USD at the airport for taxes. I’m with some of the same people from my dune buggy and sandboarding ride, the couple from Orlando, and a guy from Rio on same Peru Hop schedule I’ve met.
We got up early 8am in Huacachina to shuttle ahead to the Nazca airport. The free part of the Peru Hop tour was to arrive about 1pm and climb the Nazca tower to see 3 geoglyphs. When we arrived to Nazca about 11pm we did the tower climb as well.
At the tower
At the Maria Reiche airport
It took about an hour waiting at the airport before when boarded our Cessna. We were joined by two other people from Vancouver, Canada. The day was bright and clear, good fortune. We did several banks and turns following a path for best viewing of the glyphs.
We have communication headphones on as the guide, not the pilot, tells us about the geoglyphs. I have my GoPro camera but I’m concerned about how to film through the airplane windows. Our tour lasted about 30min skytime. Landing back at the airport I was generally satisfied with the viewing but concerned about the video quality. Unfortunately it did not come out very well but I got some decent frame captures.
My thoughts continue about the lines and glyphs. The shear amount and intricacy of lines and figures admist the lines reminded me of star maps or charts with constellations. I’ll have to ponder this further later but now it’s time to find some lunch.
We are shuttled to Mom’s Café which is the meeting point in the town of Nazca for our Peru Hop pickup and departure. Upon drop-off we discover that Mom’s Café is closed so we need to find an alternative place to store our baggage. This was not far at a restaurant Polleria Norky’s that serves only chicken and fries which we ordered with some beer. It’s 1:30pm and our pick-up isn’t until 6pm. But me and the guy from Rio hung out at the café until 5:30pm. The whole time using WiFi to catch up on all media. By the way, the chicken and fries were good. Only the last half hour I walked around thinking I need to stretch my legs before my overnight bus ride.
Upon more research about the Nazca lines1 and glyphs I found that the how of making them was more easily explained than the why. The surface of the land is a reddish-brown iron oxide layer and by removing this layer the lighter colored clay is exposed. The depth of the trenches are only about 5 inches. The dryness and stable climate preserved them. Simple tools could have been used and wooden stakes were found which may have been guide markers. The carbon dating places many up to 2000 years old. Drones flying over keep discovering more lines and glyph figures. The majority of lines attributed to the Nazca people around 500 AD.They cover and area about 450km2. Still, knowing the basics of how, the shear size and dedication to making these lines is like many ancient archeological sites …unfathomable.
Many theories on the why. Given the arid landscape and glyphs figure like the spider, hummingbird and monkey all representative of fertile land and water, one conclusion is ritualistic purposes. A wishful request to the gods that they can see from above?
My favorite is that they are astronomical representations used for ceremonies and rituals. Maria Rieche (for which the Nazca Airport is named after) believed it was an astronomical calendar. “Reiche observed that some lines converged towards the sunrise on the winter solstice of the southern hemisphere. Subsequently, Reiche also found an alignment with the summer solstice and proposed that some figures correspond to the shapes of constellations”2 . I’ve seen many ancient ruins and they all have design elements and alignments with astronomical events such as equinoxes, solstices etc.
The Nazca lines were designated in 1994 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.