Geoglyphs of Nazca: detection, preservation, destruction

Already the Peruvian archaeologist Mejia Xesspe discovered some geoglyphs as soon as 1926 and published his observations 13 years later. The american art historian Paul Kosok made the geoglyphs internationally public in 1941. Maria Reiche, a German who emigrated from Dresden to Peru in 1932, has a substantially part of investigation, maintenance and prevervation of the geoglyphs in the area of the Nazca pampa, which is the focus of the its spreading. She lived for "her" geoglyphs up to her old age and is responsible for the fact, that since 1994 the central geoglyph area is part of the world cultural heritage list.

By the contrast of the above-lying, dark purple wethered stone layer on the one hand and the much lighter underground, on the other hand the pampa is severe sensitive against the smallest changes. While it is no more allowed to drive by cars through the central geoglyph area, ist seems now sure that damages caused there by the enormous growing tourism will not increase considerably. In spite of that, many geoglyphs are still strongly at risk. Each driving trace is one too much and will remain visible thousands of years, similar like the geoglyphs itselfs. Not only street building – already the Panamericana cut through the best geoglyph areas – also agriculture and enlargement of settlements destroyed and destroy numerous geoglyphs. A big part of them seems to be be affected by the actual climate change: an increase of the el-Niño-events causes obviously more rainfalls in the otherwise dry pampa. This consequences brief water streams, which may damage the geoglyphs or let them disappear.

Especially in the western and southern parts of the spreading area of the geoglyphs parts of the pampa, also with geoglyphs, are influenced without human activity by wind erosion. Partly, geoglyphs seem later to be covered by dunes and sometimes blown free again afterwards. In such areas the identification by satellite images is particulary difficult.

Though here is the biggest and most famous concentration of geoglyphs, they are not restricted to this region of South America, as shown by an example of a oblong trapezoid ca. 70 km to the northwest, where also linear structures may be obvised. To further neighboured, faintly visible examples (1 and 2) are situated more below along the Río Ica valley. Also in the Chilenean part of the Atacama desert numerous (deviating) geoglyphs are known (example).

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