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The Nazca Lines: Who made them and why?

For size comparison, you can see me riding my bike past the Tree - I'm on the road on the right.
For size comparison, you can see me riding my bike past the Tree - I'm on the road on the right.

The Nazca Lines is one of the world’s unsolved mysteries – but that doesn’t stop people from coming up with theories about who made them and why.

The hummingbird is just one of many figures scratched into the desert near Nazca, Peru.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Located in the southern Peruvian desert near the town of Nazca, the Nazca Lines are a large group of figures scratched into the surface of the ground. From ground level, you see merely the slightest hint of a trench that could easily be caused by rain runoff, but as you move higher, complex figures appear.

Click here for a slideshow of the Nazca Lines

Scientists have calculated the lines to be around 2000 years old. When you look at the lines, you can’t help but be astounded that they are still around. The dry conditions of the desert – it rains only sporadically; perhaps only once per year for thirty minutes or so – have allowed the lines to persevere. They are coated with a light layer of lime to ensure they don’t wash away.

There are many theories as to why the Nazca Lines were made – from gigantic calendars to astronautic runways. Some people feel they are symbols for tribal clans; others theorize they are designs for irrigation systems. Perhaps they are religious symbols with ceremonial functions or symbols of the fertility cult.

Whatever they were created for, they are really cool to look at today!

There are two ways to see the Nazca Lines. About 20 km north of Nazca is an observation tower you can climb up in. From the top, you will see two of the figures. The other method is to fly up in a small plane and see them all from the air. The flight takes about 35 minutes and you will see all the major figures. Contact Alas Peruanas for more information.

If you plan to spend the night in Nazca, the Hotel Majoro is a great option. It’s a fabulous old convent that has been converted into a hotel/museum and is decorated throughout with original Incan textiles. The juxtaposition of an Incan museum in the land of the Nazca is something not to be missed!

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is currently cycling from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and twin sons. She is documenting their journey for Guinness World Records at and has a regular column on the Communities to the Washington Times.  She is also the World Bike Touring Examiner.


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