Paracas Paving the Way
On a hillside south of Palpa, a town in southern Peru, three human figures etched into sand date to at least 2,400 years ago. These figures, visible from the air and ground, are known as geoglyphs, or large designs made of piled rock. While the Nasca civilization is largely known for its famous geoglyphs, the Nasca lines, the human figures on the hillside were likely created by the Paracas, before the Nasca civilization began.
The Paracas existed well before the Nasca; while the Paracas culture seems to have collapsed around 100 B.C., the Nasca flourished from roughly A.D. 100 to 600. Archaeologist and National Geographic grantee, Charles Stanish of the University of California, Los Angeles, says the gap between them makes connecting the use of geoglyphs between the Nasca and Paracas cultures “a tough question.”
Markus Reindel of the German Archaeological Institute led a research team that has attributed around 75 groups of geoglyphs in the Palpa area to the Paracas culture. The popular notion that geoglyphs can be seen only from the air is a myth. The Paracas-era geoglyphs were placed on hillsides where they could be seen from the pampas—flat, treeless areas.
- Matthew Piscitelli