More than a hundred new designs have been discovered on and around the Nazca Plain in Peru and surrounding areas. These pre-Columbian works of art, which have fascinated scholars and visitors for decades, are more than 2,000 years old. The reason for the existence of the Nazca Lines, which can only be seen from the air, is still a mystery.
Researchers from Peru and Japan say that after two years of field research using aerial and drone imagery, they have discovered 168 new characters in the Nazca Desert. Huge geoglyphs carved into the desert sands represent people and animals such as cats, snakes, killer whales, birds, llamas, and alpacas.
According to Jorge Olano, the archaeologist leading the research program on the Nazca Lines, the newly discovered figures ranged between two and six meters in length.
Most of the designs known to date are several tens of meters in size and can be seen from the air. However, the recently discovered designs can still be seen from the ground, says Masato Sakai, a professor at Japan’s Yamagata University who led the study.
To date, the number of known Nazca Lines is 358, but it is likely that this is only a fraction of the total number and many more geoglyph lines are expected to be discovered. However, because the designs are spread out over such a large area, it is difficult to study and protect the area, which has since been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After all, the region is threatened by urban and economic development. “Some geoglyphs are in danger of being destroyed due to the recent expansion of mining-related workshops in the archaeological park,” says Sakai.
The purpose of these great works of art may forever remain a question mark. Archaeologists believe that the largest figures – some of which can be seen from the air – were intended to appease the gods. The smaller designs were made for other people, archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo told the Guardian in 2020. “They are clear representations of known people. They designate territories.”
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