The Nazca plateau in southern Peru is a desolate place, sere and unwelcoming, barren and profitless. Human populations have never concentrated here, nor will they do so in the future. This part of Peru is extremely intriguing and a very strange place.
Here, scattered apparently at random, are literally hundreds of different figures only visible from an aerial view. First spotted when commercial airlines started flying acorss the Peruvian desert in the 1920’s. Passangers reported seeing mysterious primitive “landing strips” on the ground below.
Some depict animals and birds (a total of eighteen different birds). Far more take the form of geometrical devices in the form of trapezoids, rectangles, triangles, and straight lines. Viewed from above, they resemble to the modern eye a jumble of runways.
How sophisticated were these Nazcan primitives? What kind of knowledge must they have possessed to inscribe their gigantic signatures on the plateau?
It seems, for a start, that they were pretty good observational astronomers. After making an intensive computer-aided study of stellar alignments at Nazca, Dr Phillis Pitluga, an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, concluded that the famous spider figure was devised as a terrestrial diagram of the giant constellation of Orion, and that the arrow-straight lines linked to the figure appear to have been set out to track through the ages the changing declinations of the three stars of Orion’s Belt.
The Nazca spider also accurately depicts a member of a known spider genus – Ricinulei. This is one of the rarest spiders genera in the world, so rare that it has only been found in remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon rainforest.
The Nazca spider accurately depicts a member of a rare spider genus - Ricinulei
How did the supposedly primitive Nazcan artists travel so far from their homeland, crossing the formidable barrier of the Andes, to obtain a specimen?
Why should they have wanted to do such a thing and how were they able to duplicate minute details of Ricinulei’s anatomy normally visible only under a microscope, notable the reproductive organ positioned on the end of its extended right leg?
The mysterious continue to multiply at Nazca and none of the designs, except perhaps the condor, really seems quite at home here. The whale and the monkey are, after all, as out of place in this desert environment as the Amazonian spider. A figure of a man, his right arm raised as though greeting, heavy boots on his feet and round eyes staring forward, cannot be said to belong to any known era or culture.
Other drawings depicting the human form are equally peculiar: their heads enclosed in halos of radiance, they do indeed look like visitors from another planet. Their sheer size is equally noteworthy and bizarre. The hummingbird is 165 feet long, the spider 150 feet long, the condor stretches nearly 400 feet from beak to tail (as does the pelican), and a lizard, whose tail is now tail is now divided by the Pan-American highway, is 617 feet in length.
Almost every design is executed on the same scale and in the same difficult manner, by the careful contouring of a single continuous line.
"The Nazca Monkey" Monkeys are not found in the deserts of Peru