Programs & Events

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Ancient Nasca People of Peru

Program Number: 
Program Type: 
Science Talks
Oct. 4, 2013 | Friday, 7:00pm
Location: Nature Research Center - SECU Daily Planet Theater

Nasca spider - photo by Paul WilliamsArcheologists have long known that the ancient Nasca peoples of the southern coast of Peru built the iconic geoglyphs in the dry desert.  These geoglyphs in Nasca come in a variety of shapes, including geometric ones, animal figures and anthropomorphic beings.  Most of the geoglyphs in this region date to the Nasca period around AD 200-600.  There are many explanations for the lines ranging from their use to point out underground water resources, as ritual pathways, as astronomical markers, as mountain worship indicators and, of course, as extraterrestrial phenomena.

Learn more about these remarkable pre-modern features at a special First Friday talk by archeological anthropologist Dr. Charles Stanish, Professor and Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Three years ago, he and his Peruvian colleagues started a project in the Chincha valley located 150 kilometers north of Nasca.  Here they discovered many more geoglyphs that had not been reported before. Their work indicates that the Chincha lines are earlier than Nasca by several centuries, and that they have distinctive patterns associated with settlements and ceremonial structures.  They furthermore found very strong evidence that some of the lines and structures were used to mark the June or winter solstice, a story covered in the popular press in May of this year. 

In this talk Dr. Stanish will briefly introduce the geoglyph phenomenon throughout the ancient world.  We will see that Nasca is not unique, and that geoglyphs are found around the globe.  He'll then discuss the Nasca phenomenon and look at how they have unlocked a few more answers about these intriguing cultural phenomena.

Photo: Paul Williams