Peru's landscape is as rich as its history. Its bustling capital, Lima, was once called the city of kings - acting as the most important metropolis in South America for more than three centuries.
Less than 300 miles south of Lima is a stretch of desert that feels untouched by the modern world. In the 1st Century A.D., it's believed that an ancient culture known as the Nasca settled here - leaving behind only one clue of their existence - the Nasca Lines.
The lines are monumental earth drawings known as geoglyphs, located in Nasca, Peru. They criss-cross the desert floor in three main patterns: straight lines, geometric shapes and animal figures.
The largest figure stretches out for almost a 1,000 ft. - roughly the same height as a 90-story building. Some of the lines are even visible from space. Covering 150 square miles, the lines are only visible from above.
Some observers say the lines have to do with an extraterrestrial encounter. One set of lines is said to describe teachers coming from the sky. Many of these "flying god" legends were first recorded by the Spanish during the 16th century conquest of Peru.
According to Nasca myth, these gods had with elongated skulls. Nascans tried to imitate the gods by putting boards around the newborn babies' heads, so that the skulls would grow into a long shape.
Some chilling archaeological finds suggest the ancient Nascans changed their appearance to look like alien gods. Elongated skulls have been found in tombs all over the Nasca Desert - and many are still on display at local museums.
Another shocking discovery is some people believe that the extraterrestrials landed in Nasca, flattening entire mountaintops.
Archaeologists say the Nasca may have had the materials to fly. The Lima Museum of Natural History has the most extensive textile collections in Peru. It is home to shawl possibly worn by an ancient shaman that has illustrations that Nascans dream to fly.
Some experts claim the shawl illustrates an ancient shaman ritual known as astral projection, allowing the shamans to fly over the lines and look down and see them.
Map to Clean Water Supply
Forty-two ritual walking lines, also known as Ceque Lines, extend from one place in Cusco from the Qoricancha Temple - now the Santo Domingo Church. The ancient Incas would make sacrifices and offer prayers to their god. Some archaeologists believe there may be a connection to the Nasca Lines.
Experts have discovered openings near the Lines that look like the entrance to a vast mine, but they are holes that connect an intricate network of aqueducts. This unusual group of holes is known as "Ojos" or Eyes.
At the bottom of the aqueduct is clean, running water trapped surface water that flows down from a sacred sand mountain known as Cerro Blanco.
Some people believe the Nasca Lines are a map of the ancients' discovery of subterranean rivers known as aquifers, found sometimes 60-80 ft. below ground level.
Astrological or Solar Calendar Map
The lost city of Cahuachi is one of the largest ceremonial centers in the world. It's believed that the Nascans constructed the city between 400 B.C. and 400 A.D. Archaeologists believe the city served as the religious epicenter for the Nasca high priests.
Some mutilated trophy skulls found on site suggest the Nasca were devout, ritualistic culture by decapitating the heads of a virgin, beautiful woman or a child to appease the gods.
Along with making trophies out of the skulls of the sacrifices, the Nascans had mummification down to a science. Sometimes 20 or 30 heads have been found in a single grave.
The Nasca Lines connection to Cahuachi may serve as an astrological purpose. There are 20 pyramids in the lost city. The main purpose of Planetarium Maria Reiche in Nasca is to study the connection between the Lines and astronomy.
A monkey geoglyph has been matched up with constellation of Ursa Major (Big Dipper). Some experts believe the Nasca Lines was used an astrological map or maybe even used as a giant solar calendar.
Archaeologists have uncovered surprising evidence that suggest that the Nasca builders could have learned from another ancient culture of Peru called the Paracas. This civilization pre-dated the ancient Nascans.
Geoglyphs link the Paracas and the Nascans and it proves that the Paracas could have been the ancient teachers of the Nasca Line drawers. From a distance, experts say the Nasca and another set of lines called the Palpa Lines look eerily similar.
Lines in Danger
Although they've withstood more than 2,000 years of wind and rain, the lines are defenseless against pedestrians and vehicles. Protecting the lines requires daily monitoring.
In an effort to preserve the sacred cultural site, UNESCO recognized the Lines as a Worldwide Heritage Site.
The Nasca Lines have been one of the world's greatest mysteries for centuries. Until more definitive clues are unearthed, their elusive legacy promises to continue for several more centuries.
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