The largest of these pictograms is nearly 900 feet (270 meters) long. The Nazca culture created the Nazca Lines between 200 BC and 700 AD. There are hundreds of different images, ranging in complexity from simple lines to hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and lizards.
The Nazca lines are not visible except from the air, which raises the first question "Why?"
It is presumed that the Nazca people were not able to view their work from above, so the motives and methods are a bit of a mystery. Some believe that the Nazca Lines were created for the gods only; some believe that they mark underground waterways, and a few controversially believe they are landing strips for alien spacecraft.
The pebbles, which cover the surface of the desert, contain ferrous oxide. The exposure of centuries has given them a dark appearance. The lines were created by removing the coated pebbles that contrast with the light-coloured subsoil underneath.
The lines remain unchanged by time due to the dry, windless conditions of the Nazca region. Nazca is one of the driest regions on the planet.
The lines and pictograms were constructed over a period of hundreds of years, their size and purpose have led to some bizarre theories including that the lines form an ancient alien landing site.
Nazca Lines Theories
Since their rediscovery in the 1920s by passengers in commercial aircraft, various theories have risen as to the methods and motives behind their construction. It is accepted that the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca people using simple tools and surveying techniques, although there is no definitive proof that the Nazca people were responsible. Wooden stakes used to mark out points have been found at the ends of some lines. These have been carbon dated to obtain the date of construction.
Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky has successfully reproduced the figures using the technology available to the Nazca Indians. His findings indicate that with careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of individuals could recreate even the largest figures within a couple of days.
An alternative theory by David Johnson, who has spent long hours researching the Nazca Lines, has used various methods to compare the Lines and their apparent connection with underground waterways. Johnson allegedly used dowsing to track these water tunnels and claims that the lines indicate whether the ground contains water or not. The areas with the most pictograms are centred on areas with high amounts of underground water and are usually close to wells and other on-land water sources.
Another theory, related to David Johnsons, is that the pictograms represent areas of the desert, and act as a giant map. The only problem with that is the pictograms are invisible from the surface.
Maybe the most controversial theory is that of Erich von Daniken's, who assigns credit for the Lines to visiting extra-terrestrials. His book, Chariots of the Gods (1970), consistently underestimates the abilities of ancient "primitive" peoples.
It is likely that we will never know the reasoning behind the Nazca people, why did they construct these pictograms and for what purpose? The Nazca Lines remain one of the mysteries of the ancient world.