Number of Known Nazca Lines Has Nearly Doubled

What a difference a drone can make
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2022 5:48 PM CST
Huge New Batch of Nazca Lines Discovered in Peru
A truck drives past the Nazca Lines in Nazca, Peru, Jan. 8, 2019. Researchers using drones and aerial imagery recently discovered 168 new geoglyphs in the area, nearly double the number previously known.   (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Researchers from Japan’s Yamagata University have devoted themselves to locating and mapping as many of Peru’s enigmatic geoglyphs as they possibly can, according to Science Alert, and they made some big progress recently. Known as the Nazca Lines after the desert where they’re found, the geoglyphs—some which are mere lines or patterns and some which resemble humans, animals, and plants—were constructed by ancient Peruvians by stripping rocks and other debris to reveal the soil underneath. In addition to being quite large (up to 1,200 feet in length), many were etched on flat surfaces and cannot be deciphered from the ground.

The Nazca Lines were designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994 after the first 30 were discovered. As of 2019, researchers had found close to 200, which one researcher estimated to be just 5% of the total out there in the desert, per a story last year in the Guardian. Now, thanks to the Yamagata team—which relied on drones and aerial imagery to survey the land—the total number of known lines has nearly doubled to 358. Among the 164 new discoveries, about 50 depict humans, including one who 'appears to be sporting a bit of facial hair, Homer Simpson-style," as Science Alert puts it. Birds, orcas, cats, and snakes were also found in the earthen menagerie.

Archaeologists can’t date the actual lines, but surrounding artifacts and other evidence suggest they were made between 500BCE and 500CE, with the latest finds probably falling somewhere in the middle of that timeframe. There are various theories as to their purpose, but the most common suggests they were intended to be viewed by the gods. Working in partnership with the Peruvian government, the Yamagata team’s devotion is driven in part by concerns that the Nazca Lines are threatened not only by natural erosion but by humans, such as the truck driver in 2018 who left a football-field sized trail of damage across one design, per CNN. (More Nazca lines stories.)

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