The Nazca Lines are gigantic geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches 53 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana in Peru. They were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 600 AD. There are hundreds of individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and lizards. The Nazca lines cannot be recognized as coherent figures except from the air. Since it is presumed the Nazca people could never have seen their work from this vantage point, there has been much speculation on the builders' abilities and motivations.
The lines were first noticed in the modern era when airplanes began flying over the Peruvian desert in the 1920s. In 1927, Toribio Mejia Xespe, a Peruvian doctor and anthropologist was the first scientist to show interest in what he called these "great Incan ceremonial artifacts".
The first systematic and scientific survey of the lines began in the 1930s under the direction of Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche. Reiche took over the study in 1946 and until her death in 1998 lobbied to protect and preserve the lines. She lobbied successfully to have the lines declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Since then, improved aerial and satellite photography as well as increased interest and study of the glyphs and the surrounding desert has added to our knowledge of the site as well as the people who built it. For instance Cahuachi, a Nazca city overlooking some of the lines, was recently discovered in the surrounding hillside. It was built nearly 2,000 years ago and mysteriously abandoned 500 years later.
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