Soil drawings near Nazca, Peru

In the Nazca Plain and the Pampas de Jumana, fantastic ground drawings were made from about 1,000 BC to 500 AD. The more than 1,500 geometric lines in the earth's crust form figures hundreds of metres tall and patterns kilometres long, the meaning of which is still unclear today.

The ground drawings at Nazca and in the Pampas de Jumana in Peru's coastal desert are located about 400 kilometres south of the country's capital Lima. They are one of the most enigmatic phenomena in South America and are among our top 10 sights of Peru.


Geometric patterns and lines up to 20 kilometres in length, as well as scars measuring up to 100 metres, extend over an area of around 450 square kilometres. Due to their size, some of them can only be seen from the air. Over 70 different figures have been identified, including birds, humans, insects, monkeys and even whales, some drawn in astonishing symmetry.

PICTURES: Nazca - soil drawings

Photo gallery: Ground drawings at Nazca

Origin and discovery of the Nazca Lines

The first lines were drawn through arranged stones in the Chavín period, around 1,000 to 300 BC. It was only afterwards, in the Nazca period, around 500 BC to 500 AD, that the shaded images visible today were created by the Nazca scraping aside the dark gravel on the earth's surface, often only a few centimetres deep, thus exposing the lower lighter layer.

According to one theory, these were to serve a similar function to the pyramids of Egypt - the larger the images, the more powerful the reigning ruler who commissioned them.

The fascinating geoglyphs were notdiscovered until 1924, when the first flight lines passed over the Nazca Plain and a pilot was able to spot the clearly non-natural lines. Their meaning, like their creators, is still unknown today.

The mysterious discovery led to various theories about its purpose. There was talk of spiritual roads, ritual paths for sacrificial ceremonies or a huge calendar. The invocation of rain or a gigantic sports arena were also considered as explanations.

Nazca figures: A greeting from aliens?

Discovered the fascinating geoglyphs in the Nazca Plain only in 1924, when the first airlines passed over the plain, Peru - © flog / franks-travelbox
© flew / franks-travelbox

With such mysterious discoveries, the theory about the origin through extraterrestrial artists must of course not be missing. The Swiss writer Erich von Däniken disseminated what is probably the most famous parascientific explanation of the cargo cult. He argued that humans could not possibly have created these lines back then, as they could not even be seen from the ground.


Some of the structures would also have astonishing similarities to runways and taxiways for spaceships. The figure of the "astronaut" depicted is actually an image of an alien, whose visit would also be indicated by the elongated skull shapes that were ideal at the time. Despite the rather hair-raising story and above all because of the lack of scientifically sound alternative possibilities, the theory of the cargo cult has persisted to this day.

Nazca figures: A mystery to this day!

Ground drawings at Nazca from the air, Peru - © tr3gin / Shutterstock
© tr3gin / Shutterstock

Scientists assume that the Nazca lines have an agricultural, astronomical and religious significance. Many of the impressively symmetrical figures show clear connections with solar turning points. In the meantime, more than 1,500 lines have been surveyed with GPS and systematically researched, and further shaded images have emerged in the course of the investigations.

Due to the many visitors and researchers, some of the lines have been destroyed by foot and car tracks. The German researcher Maria Reiche dedicated her entire life to studying the mysterious Nazca lines and also campaigned for their protection. It is also thanks to her that the ground drawings were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, four years before her death.

The most beautiful and largest Nazca images

Ground drawings at Nazca from the air, Peru - © Jarno Gonzalez Zarraonandia / Shutterstock
© Jarno Gonzalez Zarraonandia / Shutterstock

The largest of the Nazca lines represents an abstracted bird with a coiled neck. The "Pelican" has a length of almost 300 metres. The "Hummingbird", the "Spider" and the extremely detailed condor impress with their perfect symmetry, the 70m "Monkey" shines with its oversized curled tail.

The spectacular ground drawings are best seen from an aeroplane. 30-45 minute flights are offered by travel agencies in Nazca or in small machines directly at the local airport. There is also an observation tower over the Nazca Plain on the Panamericana at kilometre 425. From there, however, apart from the "hands", not much can be seen of the shaded images.

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Exact images of the coulter pictures incl. description on