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  Peru : Articles: Nazca

Lines of Nazca, Spider

Nazca:
A Mystical Trip to the Skin of the Earth

Upon arriving to Ica, the land of cotton, wine and pisco, from the beginning we realized that it is impregnated with history.  In their flat deserts the old Peruvians wove splendid mantles in various colors, mummified their dead in singular mastery, designed lines and gigantic figures in desolated pampas, with the intension of rendering worship to the water god or interpret the sun, moon and star messages which were so vital to there lives.

The city of Ica is located in the south coast of the Peruvian littoral, with a warm and dry climate throughout the year and mid temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius. It is one of great late history, it's first inhabitants date back to 10 000 years old. This zone develops divers cultures like the Paracas, Nazca and Tiahuanaco that pertains to the coast.
Nevertheless, the center of the tourist activity in the region resides in Nazca which is well-known at worldwide level by its ceramic art where the colors and representation stand out.  The same as the famous lines and figures in Nazca whose layout is unexplainable until nowadays.  In this mystical place, this is how we found the city of Nazca located in the basin of Grande river with an extension of  48.828 square kilometers.

In this corner, south of the Peruvian territory we will find elaborate ceramics and gigantic geometric designs on land, the majority represent animals and birds. Dated back among 900 BC and 600 AC the designs are only visible from air, but for 50 dollars there are numerous opportunities to fly around the zone.  The excursion last approximately 8 hours from Lima to Nazca and vice versa with transfers on plane this is why you count with time, don't miss enjoying this emotional experience.

Nazca desert

Hotels in the zone exist with prices from 5 to 50 dollars, the air tours on airplane last (approximately 30 min.) cost around $40 US seeing all of the impressive figures at once. The journey on bus from Lima takes approximately six hours (from Paracas 3) and you can do a complete visit in 2 days. 
Situated 600 m in altitude and bathed by Nazca river it possesses rich agriculture (alfalfa, cotton), ranching and mining (gold, iron). One can commute with the north and south of the country by way of the Pan-American highway and from the city part of the highway unites with the interior of the country through Abancay.

It is famous worldwide because the territory welcomed the known Nazca culture, a pre-Incan civilization whose maximum apogee took place between the II century AC and VI BC; this culture was highlighted by its ceramics with symbolic stylized figures in which the colors dominate over the drawing, this is why it is considered the best pictorial ceramics of pre-Colombian America. Also the underground subterranean aqueducts are important and the figures, named Lines of Nazca, which are only appreciable from the air; these figures constitute an important agricultural calendar that still has not been possible to decipher and owes its discovery to the archaeologist Paul Kosok in 1932.  

Cultural Patrimony of Humanity

This interesting zone in Peru receives its name in part of the oceanic crust of the Pacific Ocean that is located in front of the coast that goes under the Andes.  Its population is close to 37 thousand inhabitants. 

Lines of Nazca, Bird

The Nazca Lines, which is the official name of the principal tourist attraction of the zone can be found in the Pampas of Jumana.  It is a set of zoomorphic, phytomorphic and geometric figures (straight lines, triangles, spirals, a bird, a spider, a monkey, flowers) that appear engraved in the surface of the desert plateaus. 

Its exact origin is not well known, although it seems to be that they were elaborated among 100 and 800 of our era years. These figures are declared Cultural Patrimonies of Humanity by UNESCO, extend 500 km2  of pampas.

According to the archaeologist Maria Reich (1903-1998), that dedicated her life to study and the safekeeping of the millenarian lines, are basically figures that represent the movement of the stars and would allow the register of the seasons, something very necessary for the development of agriculture. 

In the zone it is possible to get to know ruins of the Paracas culture (600-100 BC) characterized by its necropolis  undertakings, semi underground houses, pyramids for ceremonial use and its unequaled textiles. For there constructions they used adobe, in conical form in which they made there houses in rectangular plans where they formed villages. Also public constructions exist with pyramid temples surrounded by plazas and dwellings, in which are highlighted by there historic attraction and Cahuachi remains.

The power of time

One of the greater doubts that the tourist have upon visiting the place, is trying to understand how the "lines of Nasca" have stayed intact until this very day, subsisting the attacks of time and nature: earthquakes, changes of climate, wind and rain.

Lines of Nazca, Astronaut

Maria Reiche comments this miracle to us, since the lines are light clefts or cracks in the ground. One possible explanation may be the climate in the place "you can say that for every two years it rains for half an hour", explains the scientist. 

This amazing phenomenon resides in that the movement of air diminishes a few centimeters from the ground, due to the dark color of the rocks of the surface, in which they resemble a cushion of hot air that protects the geoglyphs from the strong wind and with them, it prevents the progressive deterioration of the relieves.

Another element that prevents the change of the surface is the gypsum that the ground contains, that the contact with the dew causes the stones to stay lightly glued to the base.

The creativity for the gods

More than thirty geoglyphs until this day have been found in the Pampas de Nazca. Which depict marine and terrestrial animals, geometric and human figures.

The drawings are less than the quantity compared to the geometric drawings that consist of hundreds and hundreds of lines, triangles, quadrangles that occupy large extensions of terrain. The topographers of the past paid careful attention to the techniques of construction seeing that they took the lines to hills and ravines or precipices without deviating themselves of their original direction. 

"The depth of the lines never exceeds 30 cm and some are simple etches on the surface, although they can be recognized when the sun is low and the relief is accentuated", explains Dr. Reiche in on of the many testimonies that she left to the world.
Lines f Nazca, Bird

Among the larger geoglyphs there is a large bird that is 300 m, a lizard that is 180 m, a pelican that is 135 m, a condor that is 135 m, a monkey that is 135 m and a spider that is 42 meters. These dimensions are reasons for constant admiration by the visitors of the zone. 

Reiche comments that "there is a bird so big that one can place themselves on the point of its wings and you can even see the head, nor the other wings, it is only possible to perceive a few lines on the ground, you would have to fly over the area in order to appreciate it in its entirety". On the contrary, the smallest figure found until this moment is a spiral that is 3 meters in diameter. Almost half of the figures are constituted by spirals and concentric designs of several sizes.

Among the designs of the animals that are perceived in Nazca the represent: a whale, a dog with a long tail and legs, two llamas, diverse birds like a heron, a crane, the pelican, a gull, the famous humming bird and the parrot. In the reptile category, a lizard, that was cut while constructing the southern Pan Americana, an iguana and a serpent.  On the other hand there are imposing figures: the monkey, the spider and the snail among others.

Technically the Nazca lines are perfect.  The straight ones are enclosed with perfection with small deviations throughout kilometers, the curves look as if they seem to be drawn with the perfection of a compass. The drawings are well proportioned, mainly if we think of the dimensions of them and the impossibility of the Incas not being able to rise above in the air to see the results of there piece, it is for this reason that the majority of the time Nazca is referred to as a mystical zone.  

Some are ventured into saying that the Nazca lines are a message etched by extraterrestrials so when the moment of maturing as inhabitants of this planet arrives we will be able to make out the meaning of them, others think that it is a stellar map, a calendar for sowing and harvest planning times, other sacred furrows where Indians walked on the drawings and lines as secret rituals that still exist.

The highway crosses the sector where are the lines

Other attractions 

It is also possible to visit the Inca remains of Paredones, the aqueducts that the Inca civilization used for irrigation and the pre-Incan cemetery of Chauchilla.  In addition, in the outskirts of Nazca it is possible to get to know the traced lines in the ground, whose width oscillates between 40 centimeters and 1.10 meters.  It is a black and reddish earth that turns violaceous at dusk. A semicircle of hills in the distance conforms a gigantic open natural amphitheatre towards the west and receives the name of the Pampas of Socos.

Although with time the deterioration of the geoglyphs have been a product of lack of safekeeping of some of the tourist that travel on land due to the proximity of the Pan-American highway, in general it is recommended to take 3 day tours, that include visits to the coastal zone of Paracas as well. 

Text by Andrea González
andy_moon@manquehue.net

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