Nazca Peru: History & Mystery

About 380 kilometres to the South of Lima, you will find a city by the name of Nazca. The name was derived from the Nazca Culture that flourished there between 100 BC to 800 AD.

It took us approximately six hours by bus to arrive there from Lima. From what I remember, it was the most comfortable bus I had ever travelled on. The type with a bathroom, where they give you a blanket and there is even a foot rest. I am not one to usually be affected by motion sickness however this time I had unfortunately fallen ill. I was just relieved to arrive at our new accommodation that had a very typical ‘Spanish Hacienda’ look and feel to the place.

The next day, we signed up for a tour that would acquaint us a little more with the preexisting culture. First we went to a pottery workshop where a very skilled artisan showed the group how ancient pottery was created and painted. I remember being in awe at how steady his hands were as he demonstrated with a regular paintbrush, many precise and meaningful lines. It seemed as if he was born with a paintbrush in his hands. The pieces usually consisted of about four colors that were generally reddish brown, orange, black and white.

After that, we were then taken by mini-van to the desert. It was the first and only time I have ever been to a real arid, desert. It made me very excited to find out that even though we were in Peru, it is considered to be a part of the Atacama desert that stretches through Chile and even Argentina. It is said to be the driest desert in the world. Many curious discoveries have been made there. The soil samples are said to be very similar to that of the soil on Mars, so it is no wonder NASA uses this desert as a testing site for many of its Mars programs. Another interesting fact is that the oldest mummies in the world (predating those of Egypt) were recovered from the Atacama desert. The remains were dated to 7020 BC.

We visited the Cauchilla Cemetery. After walking through a designated pathway bordered by ropes on both sides, we came to what I would describe as holes, about six feet in depth. Within these holes sat mummified humans with long dread-locks. Men women and even children were placed at this burial ground. I had never heard of any other culture wearing this hairstyle besides the present day Jamaicans.

I distinctly remember the guide saying that these mummies were specifically placed to face the sun rise. What a beautiful significance I thought. Beyond the ropes were thousands of bones littering the desert floor. Femurs, jaw bones and every other imaginable part made the sandy floor appear white.

While Cauchilla was a pleasant archaeological surprise, our primary reason for traveling to Nazca was to witness the Nazca lines or geoglyphs from above. We were then chauffeured to a small airport where we would take a light airplane to view the formations. I was very happy to have this particular experience as I recalled my father reading about them to me when I was just a child.

Finally the plane took off and after a short distance we were able to see the formations. There were a variety of incisions made into the soil that were so large, they only made sense from above. The pilots gave passengers on both the left and right side of the plane the opportunity to see the Lines. He dipped down and doubled back as he called out the shapes below. There I saw, the humming bird, a whale, a monkey, a spider, a man waving and many more amazing, curious geoglyphs that I can recall from memory. It simply causes one to wonder who did this and what was the reason. They were works of art. I had, and still have so many questions.

For me, an extremely puzzling feature of this was the fact that there were also many geometric shapes carved into the soil. Triangles, intersecting other precisely drawn lines and angles that went on for miles. There are many hypotheses that can be taken into consideration but the mystery is what makes this place unique since it is difficult to prove any one as absolutely true. Some say that it was created by the people of Nacza to be seen by the deities in the Sky. Who knows?

One thing is for certain, Peru is perhaps the most mystical, profound, amazing place I have ever visited. I think I would recommend it as #1 destination to anyone wanting to take an unforgettable journey.