We all know about the lines of Nazca in Peru. Now, with the help of drones, archaeologists have discovered dozens of geoglyphs drawn in the desert long before the Nazca people. Of different styles, they are in themselves a new archeological enigma.
In Peru, a few kilometers from the famous Nazca lines, archaeologists have unexpectedly discovered dozens of geoglyphs in the desert region of the Palpa Valley. More than 25 figures in the ground are added to the previous ones spotted by drones since December 2017. And it’s far from over, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters and his team are preparing to visit hundreds of other potential sites.
These geoglyphs, today almost imperceptible to the naked eye, would be the work of the Paracas, who lived in the region between -500 and 200 AD, and also the intermediate culture of Topará. Some, especially those composed of lines, are attributed to the Nazca who lived between 200 and 700. The majority of the fifty or so geoglyphs discovered to date has been made on the hillsides, probably to be seen from below, according to the researchers.
Many represent men, especially warriors, and also animals. The themes and also the point of view distinguish them from Nazca motifs. However, in both cases, the meaning of these representations remains mysterious. Why did they draw these figures? What was the ritual? Be that as it may, these discoveries show that the tradition is very old: “In total, we are talking about 1,200 years of geoglyph production,” said Johny Isla Cuadrado, of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, to Reuters. This discovery opens the door to new theories about the function and the meaning of these drawings”.
Very concerned about the threats of looting and degradation that affect all the archaeological sites in Peru — there was the unfortunate episode of Greenpeace protesters who walked near the hummingbird, Nazca, in 2014, and so trampled the whole area (the NGO has since apologized) — Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, therefore immediately accepted the offer of GlobalXplorer to conduct aerial mapping. “The documentation and geolocation of the sites is the best protection we can offer them,” he told National Geographic (the National Geographic Society is involved in the funding). Thus candidate sites noticed on satellite images were overflown by drones. They have been able to identify partially erased geoglyphs whose lines are no more than a few centimeters wide.
For the researcher, although the geoglyphs are in the same area as Nazca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is important to protect them from urban development, often illegal in these provinces, and other possible damage, whether voluntary or no. “We do not fight against a scavenger equipped with a shovel that runs away when spotted. We are fighting against an army of lawyers. This is why the location of these sites are for the moment kept secret.