Credit MachuTravelPeru

The Nazca Lines are geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru, that cover an estimated 450 square kilometers and now a World Heritage Site.

Scratched on the ground, they number in the thousands and depict creatures from both the natural world and the human imagination. They include animals such as the spider, hummingbird, monkey, lizard, pelican and even a killer whale. Also depicted are plants, trees, flowers and oddly shaped fantastic figures.

Hummingbird (Credit: Shutterstock)

In the absence of a firm archaeological conclusion, a number of fringe theories have popped up, such as the idea that the Nazca people used balloons to observe the lines from up high, something which there is no archaeological evidence for. The geoglyph of an astronaut fosters the theory they were formed by aliens.

Astronaut (Credit: pininterest)

The purpose of the lines continues to elude researchers and remains a matter of conjecture. Ancient Nazca culture was prehistoric, which means they left no written records. More logical theories include:

  * They are linked to the heavens with some of the lines representing  
          constellations in the night sky; 
  * the lines play a role in pilgrimage, with one walking across them to reach a 
          sacred place such as Cahuachi and its adobe pyramids;
  * the lines are connected with water, something vital to life yet hard to get 
          in the desert, and may have played a part in water-based rituals.

Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe was the first to study and report the Nazca Lines in detail after coming across them, on foot, in 1927. In the 1930s as air traffic in the area increased, the lines became better known, eventually attracting a steady stream of tourists.

The vast majority of the lines date from 200 BC to 500 AD, to a time when a people referred to as the Nazca inhabited the region. The earliest lines, created with piled up stones, date as far back as 500 BC.

When I visited Peru in 2003 and flew over the Nazca lines we were told they could only be seen from the air; however, a 2007 study that looked at 1,500 drawings in the Palpa region found that each geoglyph can apparently be spotted from the ground.

Take this Youtube flight over the Nazca Lines.

Do you have a theory on how they were created?

Credit: All details taken from news.nationalgeographic.com