About 400 kilometres south of Lima, capital of Peru, on a coastal plane is a series of strange symbols and lines. Called geoglyphs, some of images are very distinct, whilst others consist of straight lines which are kilometres long. These are the Nazca Lines, which cover an area of over 450 square kilometres between the towns of Nazca and Palpa.
It was once thought that these geoglyphs could only be truly appreciated from the air. This belief was given credibility by the author Erich Von Daniken in the 1970s who proselytized that the lines were the landing markers for alien aircraft. Recent research has now debunked that theory as nonsense, and the true purpose of the lines revealed.
What is now known is that the lines were created over many hundreds of years, and that some of the oldest symbols were drawn over by later communities, who continued to make new symbols. The types of symbols also changed over the years, with the earliest symbols being of stylised animals, and the latter symbols being drawn as very long straight lines.
Advanced mapping technology has also proven that the lines and symbols can be seen from high points in the area. Whilst they are spectacular when viewed from the air, it was not the original intent for them to be seen only from an aerial perspective.
When humans first settled in the Nazca area, it was a rich and fertile place which was watered by great rivers which had their headwaters in the nearby Andes Mountains. There is plenty of evidence of many towns and communities and of irrigation channels that were used to water crops. There is also evidence of massive underground grain silos which were used to store crops that were probably traded with distant communities for other goods.
The earliest symbols were mostly of recognisable animals, or of humans, who are believed to represent local leaders. When Nazca was at its zenith the dead were mummified and prepared for the afterlife, similar to the burial ceremonies in Ancient Egypt.
Gradually, desertification began to take over this lush region, and as the water dried up, cropping became more difficult. It is believed that the really long straight lines, which are the youngest symbols, where created to encourage the gods to send rain. If true, that means that the Nazca Lines is one of the earliest signs of human awareness about global warming.
Today the Nazca Plain is one of the driest places on Earth and the Nazca people who had such a strong and rich culture when their land was prosperous had to move on, with the lines representing both the rise and decline of their civilisation.