As our Cessna again circled over the giant figures on the ground I shot the final slide on my roll of film and, leaning at a 45 degree angle, attempted to reload my camera. Another pass over a monkey larger than a football field and we headed back to the dirt landing strip on Peru’s Nazca Desert. This was my first trip to Nazca, and the year was 1979.
The Nazca Desert is a high arid plateau which stretches 37 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa in southern Peru. Hundreds of square miles of this dry, rocky plain are marked with lines, triangles and other geometric shapes, some running for more than five miles in a straight line. There are also giant drawings including a monkey, a spider, birds, reptiles, and whales.
The desert markings, believed to have been made thousands of years ago, made little impression on occasional travelers who viewed them from ground level, but when they were spotted by aircraft in the 1930’s they caught the world’s attention. They have since been surveyed, mapped and studied. Only two questions remain—who made them, and why?
In his 1968 book, “Chariots of the Gods,” Swiss writer Eric von Daniken suggested that the lines were built by “ancient astronauts” as a landing field. Looking at the lines from the sky they do resemble an airport, but it doesn’t seem reasonable that advanced extraterrestrial spacecraft would require landing strips. Besides, Nazca’s soft, sandy soil is hardly suitable for an airport. Forgetting the “Twilight Zone” theories, we can imagine a more down to earth explanation. We know that the region has been inhabited for thousands of years—by the Paracas, 900–200 BC, by the Nazcas, 200 BC–600 AD, and by others. The figures are generally attributed to the Nazcas since they resemble those on Nazca pottery.