Imagine two painters using the same canvas to create different images for different purposes. Imagine that some areas were painted by each artist separately while others were shared and the images overlapped. Imagine that the artists died without telling anyone that this is how the artwork was made. Imagine that the canvas is actually vast expanses of land and the artists are two different ancient cultures drawing enormous and mysterious lines and pictures on it. That’s a new theory explaining why the purpose of the mysterious Nazca Lines in Peru has been so difficult to determine.
This confluence-of-cultures idea, presented at the recent annual meeting of the Society for American Archeology in San Francisco, was developed by Masato Sakai, professor of literature and social sciences, and his team of researchers at Japan’s Yamagata University after discovering and studying 100 new geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. The researchers also found pottery fragments at the intersections of some of the lines.
Sakai and his team identified four styles of glyphs on different paths leading to the Cahuachi religious center of temples and pyramids. Some of the glyphs were condors and camelids that appeared to be drawn by one group of people who came from the Ingenio River valley to Cahuachi. Other glyphs were shaped like supernatural beings and human heads and stretched along a different path from the Nazca Valley to the religious center.
The team believes the broken pottery identified a change in the purpose of the lines. Prior to 200 AD, the glyphs were used primarily as paths or directional pointers for pilgrims traveling to Cahuachi. The ceramic shards began appearing after that time and show that the glyphs themselves served as locations for religious activities which included the breaking of vessels.
Just as things started to make sense, the team found geoglyphs in the Nazca Plateau between the Ingenio and Nazca valleys that appear to have been made by both cultures and others that were made after the collapse of Cahuachi as a religious center around 450 AD.
Were the Nazca Lines made by two different cultures at different times for different purposes? Researchers from Yamagata University plan to continue to study current geoglyphs and discover new ones to find out for sure.