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Nazca Lines

This paper is a result of the study of the ancient phenomenon known as the Nazca lines and geoglyphs. It is based on the author’s observations made directly on the site, in the desert, and numerous satellite images and aerial photographs. The main outcome of this work was an understanding of what the Nazca geoglyphs are, the circumstances and the reasons of their creation, and the ways they functioned.

The paper presents evidence that enabled us to form a completely new way of looking at the conditions under which the object of our study was created. It turned out that the area of Nazca was not always as dry as it is now. In the recent past, when people already lived there, the problem was exactly the opposite − the excess of water. Traces of its abundance are still preserved in the form of numerous dry washouts both in the desert and in the valleys of the surrounding mountains. In the process of research we found some evidence indicating that they did not appear due to the rains at a later time, as it had been thought previously. They were caused by the outflows of groundwater to the surface at the time when the lines were being created. The paper presents numerous photographs to prove it. There is also some data presented indicating the presence of the sources of confined groundwater in the region even now, though in a much smaller scale.

The author suggested that this water had artesian character, and the coastal plains themselves in the recent past served as the water discharge areas with their supply zones in higher areas of the Andes or even behind them in the east. In this regard, many of the features of the geoglyphs’ location indicating their association with water became clear. It is the location of groundwater sources controlling the watering of loose covers in a given location and the direction of the water runoff, depending on the surface inclination, were the main factors determining the type and the location of the geoglyph.

The author’s views that the process of major mountain building had been taking place only a few thousand years ago and resulted in serious deformation of the earth's surface allowed to recover the former position of the geoglyphs and to figure out how they functioned. The lack of this understanding was a major obstacle that did not allow previous researchers to see that the geoglyphs were an ancient irrigation system having developed as a result of the specifics conditions that had existed in that area. This system not only provided the delivery of water from the source but also permitted its distribution over the fields.

This very knowledge allowed to reveal that the drawings on the surface of the Nazca Desert are presented as grooves not just because this way a bright line was created, that made them visible, but because the water flowed in them. This conclusion is confirmed by the photographs presenting the technique of making these drawings and demonstrating the character of connecting images to the water supply systems.

In the appendix dedicated to Cahuachi − the structures presented by nowadays archaeologists as the largest ancient ritual and ceremonial center in South America − there are some arguments that prove that this interpretation is fundamentally false. These structures were not cultic pyramids, rather, they were natural terraces modified by people for using them in agricultural purposes and irrigated by artesian flow out of the hills on which they were located.

Key words and concepts: Nazca, water, geoglyphs, line, serpentine, wedge, plain, mountains, the Andes, the reconstruction of the relief, ashouts, mountain building, artesian flow, outflow, groundwater.

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