|The Nazca Lines, located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain 400 km south of Lima, are geometric line clearings in the Peruvian desert. They were made by the Nazca people, who flourished between 200 BCE and 600 CE along rivers and streams that flow from the Andes.
The desert itself runs for over 1,400 miles along the Pacific Ocean. The area of the Nazca art is called the Pampa Colorada (Red Plain). It is 15 miles wide and runs some 37 miles parallel to the Andes and the sea; the lines cover an area of around 500 square kilometers (190 sq. mi). Dark red surface stones and soil have been cleared away, exposing the lighter-colored subsoil, creating the "lines". There is no sand in this desert.
From the air, the "lines" include not only lines and geometric shapes, but also depictions of animals and plants in stylized forms. Some of the forms, including images of humans, grace the steep hillsides at the edge of the desert.
More than 15,000 geometric patterns have been discovered criss-crossing the pampas like a vast puzzle; about 300 hundred figures are formed in geometric shapes mostly illustrating animals and birds, the largest figures are over 200 meters (660 ft.) across.
The Nazca Lines is a unique and magnificent artistic achievement that is unrivalled in its dimensions and diversity anywhere in the prehistoric world. This unique form of land use bears exceptional witness to the culture and beliefs of this region of pre-Hispanic South America. Scientists differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general they ascribe religious significance to them.
The patterns are only clearly visible from the air and have left generations mystified as to how these precise works could have been completed long before the documented invention of human flight. In fact, the Nazca Lines were only first spotted when commercial airlines began flying across the Peruvian desert in the 1920's. Passengers reported seeing 'primitive landing strips' on the ground below. Today people sometimes fly in hot air balloons to view the splendors of the Nazca Lines. On the Pan-American Highway some observation towers can be found, which allow a limited vision of the lines, but to appreciate them in all their magnitude you have to be airborne.