This ancient wonder of the world just keeps getting better – and more mysterious.Researchers have recently discovered 168 more geoglyphs carved into the ground in the Nazca region of Peru, three hours south of Lima.

Like the 358 other Nazca lines already recorded to date, the new ones are believed to date back 2000 years.
Most of the designs etched into the arid ground are made up of straight lines, but amazingly, others depict people, local plants and wildlife including hummingbirds, monkeys, alpacas, lizards, spiders, cats, dogs, snakes… and incredibly in the desert landscape – even whales.

The largest Nazca lines are 400 yards long – that’s four football fields laid end to end!

And what’s more, they can only be seen from the air. Leading to centuries-old questions of how they were made – and for whom to see?

Researchers from historians, archaeologists, even mathematicians and amateur enthusiasts have worked to come up with explanations for the mystery of the Nazca lines.

Some scholars point to practical applications for at least some of the carvings, like following lines of irrigation, fields and natural aquifers.

Others believe the Nazca geoglyphs are spiritual, religious or fertility symbols. And some have pointed to an apparent connection with astronomy. They have tried to demonstrate how some lines converge on the horizon at the winter Solstice, or how some geoglyphs may have been used as markers to point to where the sun and other celestial bodies rose at key points of the year.

Those theories linked the Nazca lines in the imaginations of many mystery-lovers to other ancient monuments around the world, like Stonehenge and Easter Island. And similarly to other unexplained wonders of ancient civilizations, that in turn led to some fantastical theories that linger today.

As the world was gripped in the Space Race during the 1960’s, a theory that the Nazca lines were created by “ancient astronauts” took off. Who else could have constructed such immense patterns in the desert that were only visible from the air? Who else could the Nazca lines have been made for except aliens looking on – and visiting earth – from space?

Sadly for those who would like to believe in an alien connection to the Nazca lines, researchers have shown that they are well within the abilities of mere mortals on earth to construct, using simple tools and basic surveying equipment and knowledge. In fact, wooden stakes have even been found still in the ground at the end of some lines. And a folk mystery/ paranormal ‘investigator’ this century was able to reproduce some of the figures of the Nazca lines using the same tools and technology available to the Nazca people 2000 years ago.

Furthermore, some practical-minded people have pointed out that you don’t actually have to be in space – or even the air – to see the lines. Many can be viewed from nearby elevated areas.

But debunking the extraterrestials theory of how and why Peru’s Nazca lines came to be doesn’t diminish the wonder of their existence at all. Much remains to be learned about the lines and the people who toiled to create them millennia ago.

Advances in drone technology have made new Nazca line re-discoveries like the most recent recording of 168 previously unrecorded geoglyphs possible.

As development, deforestation and climate change bringing heavier rains and erosion to the arid environment that has preserved the lines for two millennia threaten the Nazca lines, new discoveries may help in the conservation of this UNESCO World Heritage Site for future generations of people to gaze and wonder at this mysterious evidence of a long-lost civilization in South America.

Together with Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines make Peru a can’t-miss destination for those with a fascination for ancient cultures and the incredible mark and mystique they have left behind.

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Image: Getty

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