Mysteries of Nazca Lines

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In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s when commercial air travel was becoming more and more frequent, the world was being treated to another view of itself.  Ariel views of the world continue to captivate us ‘earth-walkers’ today but at that time, it all must have seemed so foreign.  Pilots flying over Peru’s desert region began reporting strange images and markings carved into the rough, wind swept crust.  This region however was quite remote and information traveled slow from this part of the world.

Eventually, scholars of all kinds descended upon the puzzling Nazca Lines to try and figure out what they meant and why they were made, while some tried to figure out how they were made.  Simply walking on the desert floor, one certainly lacks the vantage point that you get from the air or at least, a hill, which adds another element of mystery.  An example here is the Peru portion of the Pan-American Highway was built straight through the middle of a couple of them, and they didn’t even know they were there.  Did the ancient Nazca people have the ability to fly?

These scholars do agree on dating the creation of the Nazca Lines to between the fifth and seventh centuries AD.  Some of the lines are straight, like ‘ruler’ straight, and they go on for hundreds of metres and all seem to point to something, but what?  There are a few conflicting theories and one is that, as this area consists today of dry river beds, they were pointing to water sources, another is something celestial, another even describes them as a landing strip for alien aircraft.  Whatever theory you believe, it is a head-scratcher as how anyone could do something so precise with such primitive tools in such a harsh climate.

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Straight lines you say?  Big deal, so what?  Well it gets better and even more mysterious.  What would you say if you were looking down at this desert, one of the driest on the planet, and see a geoglyph of a giant spider, perfectly preserved, carved into the surface.  Hey? What then?  How about a monkey, a pelican, or a condor over a 130 meters tall?  Or a whale?

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Answer me this, how did someone in say, the fifth century, know what a whale looked like?  And even if he did know (I am assuming he, maybe a she, or an it, who knows?), how and why would he carry that image in his head back to the desert and carve it, from memory, free hand, into the rocky surface to the tune of say 40 meters wide, and what? keep running up to the nearest hill top to check his work?  The alien theory is starting to become the most believable theory isn’t it?

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There are so many baffling images here from flowers and trees, to fish and forest animals but perhaps the freakiest of all is the ‘Owl Man.’  So called because the image looks like a man but with an owl’s head.  It’s possible that the artist intended to draw a human, or, maybe the artist was an alien drawing a self portrait, and the image is quite accurate? Hmmmm, perhaps it’s the other way around, perhaps the humans were communicating to the aliens, drawing pictures of of the different lifeforms we have here on earth.  Makes sense, right?

From the town of Nazca, you can either book a land tour of the the Nazca Lines, or an ariel tour and either one will see you likely gravitate towards one of the many theories, or maybe make your own.  If you are inclined to remain on the ground, you won’t see as many, as the geoglyphs are found in a area of almost 500 square kilometres, but you’ll see some of the main ones.  For tourists, they have built some staircases with a viewing platform on top in some of the more strategic places, and you will be with a knowledgable guide and group.  If you are up for an adventure, you can book a 30-45 minute flyover.  Your pilot will take a very small group of about 4 or 5 people, and circle around for great photo opportunities.  Be warned, this is not a smooth flight and the turns are sharp but if you think you can stomach it, it’s well worth it.

Amazing facts about Inca culture you probably never heard of

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The Inca civilization was amazing in many ways. In little more than 300 years, the Incas created an empire that stretched from present-day Colombia through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia to northern Chile and Argentina. In the 15th Century the Incas ruled over 250 separate peoples, and nine million people! Even more astonishing is that the Incas constructed 30,000 km of roads and all their majestic buildings without using animals, or even basic technology such as pulleys or wheels.

Quite something, I’m sure you’ll agree. And now, 15 more curious facts about the Incas:

Skull deformations

Did you know the Incas considered deformed skulls beautiful? They would wrap bandages tightly  around the heads of their children to purposefully deform their skulls by limiting growth in one direction. The Incas were not alone in this practice: ​​other cultures such as the Mayas, Makrokephaloi, Huns, Alemanni, Thuringians and Burgundians also deformed skulls for aesthetic purposes.

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Worn once, then burnt

Once upon a time the Sapa Inca, the king of the Incas, was traveling in a sedan chair through his kingdom. All those who appeared before him had to be barefoot; even the highest dignitaries had to bring symbolic gifts, to show deference. The Sapa Inca showed his indifference by sitting behind a barrier and refusing to address his audience directly. He only ever wore the same clothing once: After wearing, the used garments would be burned in a ceremony.

Guinea pig – an Inca speciality

Did you know that in addition to llamas, alpacas and ducks, guinea pigs were also kept as pets, and eaten too? This traditional dish has survived to this day: Cuy, grilled guinea pig, is still a popular dish in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

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Skull surgery

In 15th Century Europe, kills were often quick and clean. Death by the hand of an archer was often so swift, the victims never felt a thing. Likewise, a powerful blow with a sword could lead to a quick demise, assuming the swordsman knew his craft. In South America, however, the forging of iron was still unknown: Death came mostly via clubs or slingshots. Often a dispute between Inca warriors ended not with death but severe head trauma, leading to prolonged agony. For this reason, the Incas developed the practice of opening skulls of the living to heal wounds.

Interesting fact: A study examining Inca skulls revealed that every sixth skull had a hole! It seems that most patients survived this surgery without major complications, thanks to the Incas’ remarkable skill in this unique type of treatment.

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The Inca bone

Another interesting bit of trivia: Did you know that there is a bone in the human body that not everyone has? It’s called the Inca bone.

Loyalty through education

In order to retain the loyalty of subjugated tribes, the Incas implemented a similar policy to the Romans: Children of the conquered tribes’ leaders were moved to the capital, Cusco, where they were educated in elite Inca boarding schools.

Skulls as drinking vessels.

Did you know that the skulls of defeated chiefs were used as drinking vessels? The best known victim of this practice is Atahualpa, who after a long and violent power struggle against his brother Huascar in 1532, had his skull transformed into a drinking jar.

Earlobes to the shoulders

Did you know that Incas stretched their earlobes so much, they hung down to their shoulders? Interestingly, the Spanish name for the Incas at the time was Orejones, which means “big ears”.

Polytheism

The Incas were polytheists, which meant they had several gods. The most important was Inti, the Sun God. His wife, the Moon Goddess, took over his duties by night.

Inca Whispers

Did you know that the Incas developed a sophisticated postal system? They used chains of runners to relay messages. These fast-footed news couriers were stationed in pairs, one sleeping while the other awaiting news, so somebody was always on duty. Since the Incas had no writing system, the runners had to learn the messages by heart, like a story being passed on from one person to the other. You might call it an early form of Chinese Whispers!

Good Nutrition

Did you know that one study found no sign of deficiency or malnutrition in Inca corpses?

Quipu

You may have heard that the Incas developed a form of communication called Quipu, which was woven into textiles. But did you know that it’s still unknown whether it was used to convey information in writing, numbers or both?

No Taxes

Did you know that the Incas and no money and therefore no taxes? Instead, they developed a system to distribute all their resources, and allocated value instead to the hours they worked.

Polgamy

Did you know that while Inca nobles were allowed many wives, farmers had to be monogamous?

Qeswachaka- the 1500-year-old suspension bridge

Did you know the Inca-built suspension bridge, Qeswachaka, is rebuilt every year? All local communities help out, as they did in Inca times – the women weaving the grass ropes, the men using the ropes to construct the bridge. While the bridge is built, women are not allowed nearby, as this is considered bad luck!

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