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Lines Leading to Rituals

One theory surrounding the Nasca lines is that they set the scene for sacred rituals, such as those performed to secure a good harvest. Offerings might have included beans and golden-fleshed lucuma fruit, among other gifts for the gods.

The desert drawings by the Nasca include thousands of designs covering some 1,500 square miles of sand in southern Peru. Created over more than a millennium ago, they originally included dozens of naturalistic figures; lines and trapezoids were added later. No one knows for sure what the designs meant or why they changed over time, but they likely played a crucial role in the rituals of people who prayed for rain to fall in the Andes to the east and flow down to their fields. The coastal region of southern Peru and northern Chile is one of the driest places on Earth and farmers would leave offerings on stone platforms in hopes of encouraging rain.

The lines and trapezoids—big and wide spaces into which people can enter and exit—were likely used in water rituals. Archaeoastronomist Anthony Aveni, who received a grant from National Geographic, says, “Our discoveries clearly showed that the straight lines and trapezoids are related to water…not used to find water, but rather used in connection with rituals.”

“The rituals were likely involved with the ancient need to propitiate or pay a debt to the gods…probably to plead for water,” says Aveni.

Text Source: Hall, Stephen. (2010, March). "Peru's Nasca Lines." National Geographic, 217(3), 64.
Photo Credit:
  • Robert Clark