New archaeological discoveries in Peru


This video, recorded in Peru, says about itself:

Secrets of the Nazca Lines

12 November 2013

The Nazca Lines /ˈnæzkə/ are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 kilometres (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD. The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas, and lizards.

The lines are shallow designs made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are zoomorphic designs of animals such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguar, monkey, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes such as trees and flowers. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general they ascribe religious significance to them. Other theories have been summarized as follows: “The geometric ones could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations include: irrigation schemes or giant astronomical calendars.”

Due to the dry, windless, and stable climate of the plateau and its isolation, for the most part the lines have been preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of recent years, the lines have been deteriorating due to an influx of squatters inhabiting the lands.

Contrary to the popular belief that the lines and figures can only be seen with the aid of flight, they are visible from atop the surrounding foothills. They were first discovered by the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe, who spotted them when hiking through the foothills in 1927. He discussed them at a conference in Lima in 1939.

Paul Kosok, a historian from Long Island University, is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines. In the country in 1940-41 to study ancient irrigation systems, he flew over the lines and realized that one was in the shape of a bird. Another chance helped him see how lines converged at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. He began to study how the lines might have been created, as well as to try to determine their purpose. He was joined by Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist to help figure out the purpose of the Nazca Lines. They proposed one of the earliest reasons for the existence of the figures: to be markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose. Archaeologists, historians and mathematicians have all struggled with determining the purpose of the lines.

Determining how they were made has been easier than figuring why they were made. Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Archaeological surveys have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and was the basis for establishing the age of the design complex. The scholar Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky has reproduced the figures by using tools and technology available to the Nazca people. The National Geographic called his work “remarkable in its exactness” when compared to the actual lines. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of people could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance.

On the ground, most of the lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth of between 10 cm (3.9 in) and 15 cm (5.9 in). Such trenches were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert. When this gravel is removed the light-colored clay earth which is exposed in the bottom of the trench produces lines which contrast sharply in color and tone with the surrounding land surface. This sublayer contains high amounts of lime which, with the morning mist, hardens to form a protective layer that shields the lines from winds, thereby preventing erosion.

From Popular Archaeology:

Ancient Geoglyphs in Peru Predate Nazca Lines

Mon, May 05, 2014

Mound complex in Peru’s Chincha Valley features linear radiating geoglyph lines that predate the Nazca lines by three centuries

A recent study of an archaeological mound complex with astronomical orientations and geoglyph lines in southern Peru suggests that the site features a ceremonial or ritualistic center for religous and social interaction in an ancient culture that existed between 800 and 100 BCE.

Known as the Paracas culture, these ancient people constituted an Andean society known for extensive knowledge of irrigation and water management. The Chincha Valley, about 200 km south of Lima, contains early settlements of the Paracas culture. Previous surveys have indicated at least 30 major Paracas period sites or centers in the valley.

Recenty, a study team co-led by Charles Stanish of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and Department of Anthropology, University of California, surveyed and test-excavated among five previously identified mound clusters in the lower Chincha mid-valley area. Dating them based on excavated pottery to the Late Paracas period (400 – 100 BCE), they found that the mounds featured a total of 71 geoglyph lines that radiated outward from the mounds, forming what they called “ray centers”. Two of the mounds, built in a u-shape configuration, were oriented toward the location of the sun at the June solstice. Stanish and colleagues suggest that it all represents construction for specific group or societal purposes, the details of which are thus far lost to time. But the signs appear to be unmistakeable. Write Stanish, et al:

“In Chincha, linear geoglyphs, platform mounds, and walls on those ceremonial mounds mark the June solstice. If it were only lines, then one could argue that the few solstice alignments were due to chance. However, the combination of platform mounds built in orientation with the June solstice, similarly positioned wall alignments, and comparative evidence from other regions in the Andes that documents solstice marking at sites contemporary with the Paracas period, makes purposeful construction the most parsimonious explanation. Based on these data, there is little doubt that marking the June solstice is an Andean tradition that was part of the logic of ceremonial mound construction and the creation of linear geoglyphs in pre-Hispanic Chincha during Paracas times.*

Ancient geoglyphs in Peru are most commonly associated with the famous Nazca Lines located in the Nazca Desert of southern Peru. Thought to have been created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD, scholars have developed a number of theories explaining their existence, with the greatest consensus revolving around religious practices or beliefs. But with recent discoveries related to the earlier Paracas culture, the picture is becoming a bit clearer, with the construction tradition appearing to be more ancient and more widespread.

“The ritualized landscape publically attested to particular platform mound sites as focal points for social gatherings, but it was also a product of these gatherings,” write Stanish, et al. “The act of creating geoglyphs within the broader ritualized landscape—the physical piling and clearing of rocks and soil—may be a key component of individual participation in such events. The specific nature of these social events remains obscure and will be the focus of our future research.”*

The study report has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1406501111.

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One thought on “New archaeological discoveries in Peru

  1. Pingback: Ancient settlements discovery in Peruvian Andes | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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