Nazca Lines


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Section: Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines of Peru have been an important part of the Ancient Astronaut theory since its beginning. Originally Von Daniken claimed that the lines were kind of a UFO runway, or a type of alien airport, where the alien craft landed and took off.

When challenged by Carl Sagan and others on this point in an early documentary, Von Daniken kind of backtracked on this and said that he meant that the lines were created as a result of the spacecraft landing.[1]

Von Daniken: “I never said that the extraterrestrials needed a runway with concrete or something like this. My idea was that some vehicle was coming down, not an interstellar spaceship, simply a small vehicle, and landing with an effect of an air-cushion system. So they don’t need landing tracks but simply, by the landing, itself some sand and stones are blown away and you have a simple track on the ground, and after a few hours or days, they start again and you have a second track [in another direction].”

In other words he is saying that the spacecraft dragged on the surface of the ground as they landed, and the lines are therefore the unintentional result of spacecraft landing.

For the Ancient Aliens series however, it seems they are back to claiming it was an airport.

Ancient Aliens: “The land looked like airstrips. They start abruptly. They end abruptly.”

AA: “Looking at Nazca from the air, it looks like an airport. It really does, because you have all these bands, wide bands, that look like airstrips that are layered on top of each other, but you also have these gigantic, long straight lines that go for miles and miles over valleys; over mountains.”

Either explanation seems to fall short of explaining why these lines are sometimes several miles long, one of them being almost 15 miles long. It would be a pretty inefficient spacecraft if it took 15 miles for it to take off or, in the alternate explanation, if it needed to drag on the ground for 15 miles before it stopped.

We will look more into this later, in the meantime I want to look at what I think might be the most ridiculous claim of the entire Ancient Aliens series.

AA: “Now at Nazca entire mountain tops have been removed. I mean, this all requires machining, and I’m not talking a little wheelbarrow and a pick. I’m talking sophisticated machinery because we today would also need sophisticated machinery in order to achieve such feats.”

They are claiming this mountain in the Nazca region has been artificially sheared off. But what they are referring to is a plateau[2]. Plateau’s and mesa’s are naturally flat on top. They occur all over the world, geologist know exactly how they form.[3]

In light of that it makes them spending so much time on this point kind of funny.

AA: “There the mountains are cut from both sides. Here it is flat. This is absolutely incredible. This is one of the craziest pictures I made about Nazca.”

AA: “The crazy thing is the rumble [and] the remains of that summit or that mountain top [are] gone. It’s nowhere. It’s not in the valley below. It’s not in the region. What happened to it?”

Ok moving on to the lines. Nazca doesn’t just have straight lines. There are also several images of animals, such as monkeys, spiders, fish, jaguars, llamas, lizards and dogs.

Contrary to what Ancient Aliens says the way they were made is very well known. In fact it’s ridiculously simple. They simply moved the reddish-brown iron oxide covered pebbles, that cover the surface of the Nazca desert, out of the way.[4]

When the gravel is moved the layer underneath is exposed, which is much lighter, and the contrast of the two colors creates the Nazca line.[5] If you were in the Nazca desert you could create a Nazca line by running your finger over the surface of the ground.

It would probably stay there for hundreds of years too. Because the Nazca desert is one of the driest places in the world and it almost never receives rain.  If it did the lines would have been washed away long ago because they are so superficial.[6]

Well, if these lines aren’t an alien airport, what are they? What is known are the basic beliefs about religion in the ancient Nazca culture?

Likely related to the arid and extreme nature of their environment, Nazca religious beliefs were centered around agriculture and fertility. Much of Nazca art depicts powerful nature gods such as the mythical killer whale, the harvesters, the mythical spotted cat, [ect.][7]

Essentially they worshipped gods represented by animals which they thought controlled things like water and crops.

I might add that they were super serious about this too – so serious that they decapitated lots and lots of humans in order to appease these nature gods.[8]  I think it’s fair to say that the Nazca people were obsessed with beheadings.

On their pottery it depicts crops growing from severed heads, and there are other things too that show the connections they believe severed heads had to good crops.[9]

All that to say these people were dead serious about farming, and if you’re serious about farming you must be also serious about water, and if you were farming in the desert then it’s off the charts how serious about water you would be. I mention this because it helps explain what the Nazca lines likely are.

First let’s take the depictions of animals. For the most part all of these animals can also be found depicted in Nazcan pottery.[10] They were the Nazca gods of water and fertility.[11]

If you asked an ancient Nazcan what they believed about the world and how it worked, they would likely say something like: “We take hallucinogenic drugs; we cut off a lot of heads, all in hopes that the monkey spirit will help us have some good crops this year.

That just isn’t what you would expect to hear if these people were smack-dab in the middle of a massive mining operation conducted by UFO flying spacemen. There should be some hint of that in their mythology if it were true. But if it was true they apparently couldn’t have cared less based on their lack of any indication in their belief system.

Let’s move on to the actual line. To understand these we need to know a few more facts.

One aspect of the Nazcan religion was huge pilgrimages. Massive amounts of Nazcan’s would walk to certain holy sites throughout the year. There they would participate in big religious events.[12]

The main place that they walked to was a place called Cahuachi very near the Nazca lines. For a long time archeologists thought it was the biggest Nazcan city ever found. But slowly they realized that it was never a place of permanent residence, but was only a place for all the pilgrim’s to converge.[13] And what they did after they all walked there was…well, some more walking.

These walks are called processions when they are in a religious context. In the Nazcan culture everyone got together and walked on these specific paths.[14]

The idea was that by getting everyone together and doing these rituals they could appease these water gods. And even when the straight lines were not directly above underground water reservoirs they were leading to mountains and other sites which were associated with the water gods, where the people would then worship those gods.[15]

So in conclusion, the mountains weren’t shaved off. The idea that it was an airport makes no logical sense, and the symbols and rituals which were a huge part of the Nazcan culture more than explain the so called Nazca lines.


[1] Harald Reinl. In Search of Ancient Astronauts, 1973. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133018/.

[3] Science Clarified. “Plateau.” Plateau, June 29, 2006. http://www.scienceclarified.com/landforms/Ocean-Basins-to-Volcanoes/Plateau.html.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_culture

[8]Proulx, Donald A. “Ritual Uses of Trophy Heads in Ancient Nasca Society.” In Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Anita G. Cook. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

[9] Ibid.

[10] A Sourcebook of Nasca Ceramic Iconography by Donald A. Proulx (2006) University of Iowa Press

[11] THE NAZCA LINES, WATER AND MOUNTAINS: AN ETHNOARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY. Johan Reinhard. 1996

[12] Helaine Silverman, Cahuachi in the Ancient Nasca World, University of Iowa Press, 1993.

[13] Silverman, Helaine (1994). “The Archaeological Identification of an Ancient Peruvian Pilgrimage Center”. World Archaeology 26 (1): 1–18. doi:10.1080/00438243.1994.9980257. JSTOR 124860

[15] Reinhard. 1996