The representation of an orca found in 2013 is the oldest geoglyph of the Nazca Lines

Since 1997 the German Archaeological Institute has been studying the famous Nazca Lines in collaboration with the Andean Institute for Archaeological Studies. In 2013, before the end of the last research campaign, they discovered a new figurative representation that seemed to be a marine animal in Palpa, some 400 kilometers south of Lima.

Now, once all the documentation has been gathered and the restoration and conservation work on the find completed, the researchers propose that it is the figure of an orca, also known as killer whale.

The geoglyph is barely 60 meters long, it is not one of the largest in the area, where there are about 1,500, but its importance lies in the fact that scientists consider it the oldest in the Nazca period, which extends between 200 BC and the 600 AD

Photo Johny Isla/Ministry of Culture of Peru/ Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

The discovery also raises questions such as why was a marine animal represented in the middle of the desert 60 kilometers from the coast? Even the symbols that appear on the underside of the animal baffle experts. In the same way as the head-trophy that crowns the figure and of which there are examples in ceramic vessels, evidence of the cult of the ancestors.

Archaeologists believe that this geoglyph may indicate an epochal shift in the area’s pre-Columbian history, possibly created by a pre-Nazca culture. Its dating, based on soil analysis and the mixed technique used, places it around the year 200 BC.

And it is that some parts of the set were made in the form of negative relief, that is, removing the stones so that the ground formed the image. Other parts are made visible in positive relief, stacking stones from the environment to create contrast. This system would correspond to the Paracas culture, which would extend between 800 and 200 BC in southern Peru, and whose cave paintings already showed figures of birds, fish and humans.

Photo Johny Isla/Ministry of Culture of Peru/ Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

What is not yet clear is whether the cave paintings served as models for the drawings on the ground or were created in parallel. Only at the end of the Nazca period were the geoglyphs reduced to geometric lines that stretch for kilometers and can only be seen in their entirety from the air.

Thus, according to archaeologists, the Nazca culture would be a descendant of the Paracas, reacting to the advance of the desert and producing social, climatic and economic change, while trying to preserve and increase the flow of water from the Andes.

The geoglyph in question is very similar to the one that appears in the photographs taken by the German geographer Maria Reiche, who worked at the National Museum of Lima during the 1940s. Reiche investigated the Nazca lines and in one of his images appears what then it was interpreted as a bird man, without ever knowing its exact location. The researchers believe that both images are so similar that they could be the same, so we would be talking about a rediscovery.


Welt / Newsweek / Deutsches Archäologisches Insitut / Bradshaw Foundation.