Low-flying Drones Reveal New Nazca Lines

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April 8, 2018

Archaeologists have found a whole new network of geoglyphs in the spirit and location of Peru's famed Nazca Lines.

The Nazca culture flourished in what is now Peru in the first half of the first millenium A.D., long before the famed Inca held sway there. Populating the area before the Nazca were other cultures, including the Paracas and Topará; and it is people from those two cultures that today's archaeologists think carved out some of the newly discovered geoglyphs, which are all these years later too faint to be seen by the naked eye. Scans by low-flying drones revealed the newfound lines, as well as some previously undiscovered Nazca Lines.

The Paracas culture flourished several hundred years before the Nazca and created several hundred geoglyphs of their own, in nearby Palpa. (These are known as the Palpa Lines.) Some of the oldest glyphs date to 500 B.C. The Nazca held sway beginning about A.D. 200, so the discovery suggests that they did not invent the technology or the practice but perhaps rather improved on it.

Nazca Lines new pyramid

Two main differences from the Nazca Lines emerge from some of the newly found glyphs. Some of the glyphs found on hillsides depict human figures and would have been visible to people living in villages below. The Nazca culture drew their Lines on the desert floor, and the shapes in between those lines, of animals and geometric shapes, are visible from a great height.

One point of similarity is that one of the older figures found, dating to the Paracas culture, is pyramid-shaped.

The Nazca Lines have been the target of a pair of high-profile incidents in recent years:

  • The environmentalist group Greenpeace in 2014 carried out a protest very close to the hummingbird-shaped shape. The shape was damaged in the ensuing human activity, and the governments of Peru and the United States donated money to a restoration effort, which has resulted in the new discoveries.
  • Earlier in 2018, a truck driver drove across part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, damaging a handful of the Nazca Lines. The driver had ignored warning signs and was apprehended but not charged or fined because authorities could not prove that he had driven through the area with intent to do damage.

The Peruvian archaeologists will continue to work National Geographic equipment and personnel in cataloging data from the 50 newly discovered geoglyphs.

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