Nazca Lines in the Peruvian Desert
May 6, 2014

Ancient Lines Of Rock Pointed Toward Paracas Festivals In 300 B.C.

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A new study indicates that in ancient Peru residents formed lines of rock which may have directed people to fairs and trade sites around 300 B.C., reports Dan Vergano of National Geographic News.

The Paracas people placed these piles of rock, with some stretching more than 1.9 miles, in the highlands and built ceremonial mounds near their homes along the Andean coast. This predates the famous Nazca lines by centuries.

The Paracas civilization began around 800 B.C. “They used the lines in a different way than the Nazca. They basically created these areas of highly ritualized processions and activities that were not settled permanently,” team leader Charles Stanish told Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience.

The study’s goal, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, is to find specific explanations on why these rock formations were placed in the middle of nowhere.

Researchers located 71 rock lines, 353 rock cairns, rocks placed in rectangles or circles in a 15-square-mile area more than 12 miles from the coast of Chincha Valley in southern Peru, which is midway between the highland settlements and the coast. These lines pointed to five different ceremonial mounds, with some marking the winter solstice in June, that is most likely festival time, Stanish believes.

Two U-shaped mounds and the largest mound pointed toward the June solstice sunset. “I don't think people needed the signposts, but it was more kind of a ritualized thing, where you come down and everything's prepared,” Stanish said.

Pottery excavated from three of the mounds were dated at least 2,300 years ago, suggesting these mounds were sites of business. The Paracas people built these lines believed to be advertising for traders and pilgrims from the Peru highlands, directing them to their markets.

The Nazca lines, which were formed around 100 B.C., were built in animal and human shapes. While the study shows a difference between the Paracas lines and the Nazca lines, other studies have shown the two overlap each other.

Environmental historian Ingmar Unkel from Kiel University in Germany explained the formations to National Geographic by saying this, “finally [gets] rid of the esoteric aura which surrounded the 'Nazca Lines' in public perception during much of the last century.”

“The leaders of all ancient societies that I know have put their efforts on predicting the arrival of the rain. I would assume that the determination of the summer solstice [December in the Southern Hemisphere] would be of higher importance, announcing the arrival of new water,” Unkel added.

Results of this research are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.