Maria Reiche is the Lady of the Lines
German scientist Maria Reiche (May 1903–June 1998) is considered to be one of the most prominent figures dedicated to the preservation, mapping, and exploration of the Nasca lines—large designs etched on the ground called geoglyphs—in southern Peru. After World War II, Reiche made the first formal surveys of the Nasca lines and for half a century, until her death in 1998, Reiche played an important role in conserving them. In 1976, Reiche created a viewing tower to ward off damage to the lines due to tourist activity.
Reiche hypothesized that the lines were a huge astronomical calendar and the animal shapes mirrored constellations. Although her dedication at protecting the lines is undeniable—she measured about 1,000 lines in the desert on her own—her theory that the lines represented an astronomical clock has been largely discredited. The original use of the Nasca lines is still a mystery. Since 1997, a large Peruvian-German research collaboration has carried on Reiche’s work near the town of Palpa, farther to the north.
Reiche received a grant from the National Geographic Society in 1974.
- William Albert Allard