A collection of 168 Nazca geoglyphs were identified in Peru’s Nasca Pampa by archaeologists using high-resolution aerial photography and drone images.
Researchers from Yamagata University, in partnership with Peruvian archaeologists, conducted field surveys that yielded the latest find. The geoglyphs, which date between 100 BCE and 300 CE, depict humans, camelids, birds, orcas, felines, and snakes. Measuring less than thirty-three feet in diameter, they were created by removing black stones from the earth’s surface to expose the white sand beneath and were primarily distributed along ancient trails.
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Scholars believe there are two types of geoglyphs—linear and relief types. Of the 168 recently identified geoglyphs, only five are linear, while the other 163 are reliefs.
Yamagata University, in collaboration with IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Centre, also plans to conduct an AI-based study on the distribution patterns of Nazca geoglyphs. The results will be used for geoglyph conservation activities.
This latest discovery adds to 190 previously identified geoglyphs between 2004 and 2018, which led to the establishment of an archaeological park in the Aja area by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture in 2017. While there are a range of theories that the Nazca geoglyphs depict deities, are a form of irrigation, and are a calendar with astrological alignments, the purpose of the Nazca geoglyphs is ultimately unclear.
Nazca society developed during the Early Intermediate Period from 200 BCE–600 CE. The Nazca developed from the preceding Paracas culture and settled in the valley of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage and the Ica Valley. Their culture is characterized by its pre-fire slip polychrome pottery, which indicates a shift from their predecessor’s post-fire resin method.
The early Nazca civilization was comprised of local chiefdoms cantered around the pilgrimage site Cahuachi along the coast of the Central Andes. Cahuachi contained around 40 mounds topped with organic built structures, which would have been used for agriculture, water, and fertility rituals.