Holiday Attractions

The mysterious Nazca lines – Part 1

Until the 1930s, Nazca was like any other small Peruvian town, with no claim to fame except that you had to cross one of the world’s driest deserts to reach from Lima. But that desert has since drawn thousands to this tiny, sun-bleached colonial town, which was devastated by an earthquake in 1996. The pampa or plain, north o the city has become one of the greatest scientific mysteries in the Americas.

Nazca LinesNazca LinesNazca Lines

The Nazca lines are a series of drawings of animals, geometric figures and birds ranging up to 300 meters in size, scratched on to the arid crust of the desert and preserved for about 2000 years, owing to a complete lack of rain and unique winds that clean, but have not erased the pampa. The huge figures that the lines from can only be seen from the air.

In 1939, North American scientist Poul Kosok, flying over the dry coast in a small plane, noticed the lines that were previously believed to be part of a pre-Inca irrigation system. A specialist in irrigation, he quickly concluded that this had nothing to do with water systems. By chance, the day of the flight coincided with the summer solstice and, on a second flight, Kosok discovered that the line of the sunset ran tandem to the direction of one of the bird drawings. He dubbed the Nazca pampa –“the biggest astronomy book in the world”. But it was a young German mathematician who became the expert on the lines and put Nazca on the map. Maria Reiche was 35 when she met Kosok, and he encouraged her to study the pampa. She dedicated the half century to the task.