Who Created the Nazca Lines in the Desert?

Quck answer

The Nazca Lines in the desert were drawn by the ancient Nazca people, who lived in what is now Peru from 200 BC to 600 AD. These lines are huge geoglyphs, or drawings, that cover an area of about 450 square kilometers. They depict various animals, plants, and geometric shapes. The purpose of these lines is still unknown, but some theories suggest they were used for religious or astronomical purposes, while others believe they were created as a way to communicate with gods or as a form of art. The mystery of the Nazca Lines continues to intrigue scientists and archaeologists to this day.


Which modern human achievements fascinate you? Are you amazed by skyscrapers that reach over 100 stories high? How about bridges that span long distances over water? Today’s world is filled with advanced technology, which can make it easy to overlook such remarkable accomplishments.

However, some of the most awe-inspiring human achievements occurred hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. We need look no further than the Great Pyramids of Egypt for evidence. How were these monuments constructed without the tools we have today? These and other incredible wonders continue to astound us.

Another ancient marvel can be traced back over 2,000 years. However, it remained largely unknown until the invention of airplanes. Let’s journey to the coastal plains of Peru, where we will explore the Nazca Lines!

About 250 miles south of Lima, Peru, lies a region of arid desert plains. This area is known as the Rio Grande de Nazca river basin, receiving less than an inch of rainfall per year. It is one of the driest places on Earth.

This region is also home to the Nazca Lines, a collection of massive geoglyphs: lines, shapes, and designs carved into the ground. Due to their size, these markings can only be fully appreciated from the air. The Nazca Lines span approximately 290 square miles, which is why they remained virtually unknown until planes began flying over Peru in the 1930s. Some new lines were even discovered as recently as 2019.

Scientists believe that the ancient Nazca culture, dating back 2,000 years, created these geoglyphs. The Nazca Lines consist of various shapes, including over 800 straight lines, some of which stretch for about 30 miles. Additionally, there are more than 300 geometric designs, such as triangles, rectangles, trapezoids, spirals, arrows, and wavy lines. The lines also depict around 70 plants and animals, known as biomorphs, such as dogs, lizards, ducks, spiders, hummingbirds, monkeys, whales, llamas, cacti, flowers, and trees.

How were the Nazca Lines made? Experts hypothesize that the creators meticulously removed the top layer of rust-colored pebbles, approximately 12-15 inches deep, revealing the lighter-colored sand beneath. Given the scale of the Nazca Lines, this was an extraordinary undertaking.

Fortunately, the Nazca Lines have remained relatively unchanged over the past two centuries, primarily due to the lack of rainfall and minimal wind in the desert area. As a result, erosion has been nearly nonexistent. However, the question remains: why were the Nazca Lines created in the first place?

No one knows for certain. The Nazca Lines have been subject to over 80 years of study and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Yet, they still largely remain a mystery. Numerous theories have been proposed, but scientists have yet to definitively determine the purpose behind the Nazca Lines.

Initially, the first scientists to study the Nazca Lines speculated that they may have corresponded to significant dates or events. They also considered the possibility that the lines aligned with astronomical phenomena. Some even believe that the lines were created by extraterrestrial beings. However, subsequent studies have led researchers to believe that the geoglyphs may have served as markers for important rituals dedicated to praying for rainfall from ancient gods.

Without a doubt, the study of the Nazca Lines will continue. It is hoped that experts will gain further understanding of how and why an ancient civilization created these enduring markings on the desert surface. Additionally, there will be increased efforts to conserve these lines.

While the Nazca Lines may not face significant threats from natural forces, human beings pose a different challenge. In 2014, members of Greenpeace caused damage to an area near the hummingbird geoglyph as part of a publicity stunt. Then, in 2018, a truck driver drove over a portion of the Nazca Lines, resulting in damage to an area measuring approximately 100 feet by 330 feet. Many individuals are hopeful that these incidents will lead to stricter security measures surrounding the lines.

Have you ever had the opportunity to see the Nazca Lines? Would you like to fly over them someday? Perhaps you can even contribute to unraveling the mysteries surrounding them! The Nazca Lines are certain to captivate people for years to come.

Give It a Try

Are you interested in learning more about the Nazca Lines? Make sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • How amazing would it be to visit Peru and see the Nazca Lines in person? If you’re unable to travel to Lima in the near future, you can always rely on the Internet! Go online and check out the Nazca Lines Photo Gallery. Which of the geoglyphs do you think would have been the most challenging to create? Why? Discuss your thoughts with a friend or family member.
  • If you wanted to leave a message for future civilizations that may exist hundreds or thousands of years from now, what types of geoglyphs would you create? Use your imagination to envision which images would have the greatest impact and usefulness for future generations. Draw at least one geoglyph and then write a paragraph on the back of your drawing explaining why you chose that particular shape. Share your ideas with a friend or family member.
  • Do you live near a beach or somewhere with a large sandbox? Head over there today and have some fun drawing your own lines in the sand. Try to imitate some of the Nazca Lines you have seen. How easy or difficult is it to create them? Come up with a few designs of your own. How long do you think your lines will last?

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/archaeology/nasca-lines/ (accessed 12 Sept. 2020)
  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/01/a-truck-driver-inexplicably-plowed-over-a-2000-year-old-historical-site-in-peru-damaging-the-designs/ (accessed 12 Sept. 2020)
  • http://www.history.com/topics/nazca-lines (accessed 12 Sept. 2020)
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/21/world/europe/nazca-lines-peru.html (accessed 12 Sept. 2020)

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