Things That Matter

The Nazca Lines Have Captivated Scientists For Centuries And Now They’ve Just Discovered Hundreds More

People love conspiracy theories, particularly if they involve ancient civilizations and aliens, right? The recent craze over the Area 51 flash mob highlighted that talks about life in outer space are still relevant in popular culture, even after the craze of the 1990s culture which included TV shows like The X-Files, which had a revival just five years ago. Well, a recent archeological discovery in Peru promises to reignite conspiracy theories that point to what many believe is clear evidence that indigenous civilizations in the region has some sort of contact with extraterrestrial beings. But beyond suppositions, the recent discovery in Peru has huge scientific and cultural value, and they are evidence of the complexity of the knowledge produced by 

So what are Nazca lines anyway?

Credit: Atlas Obscura

Located in the Nazca desert in southern Peru, these amazing designs are geoglyphs that depict animals, unknown symbols and humanoid forms. But what is a geoglyph? Simply put, a drawing made on a natural mineral surface such as sand and rock. The drawings are sometimes several feet long and they are best seen from the sky, which has of course puzzled scientists and fed conspiracy theorists. Some experts believe they might have been used to map the territory and provide guidance to travellers who might have seen them from far away mountains.  The Nazca lines cover an area of about 1,000 square kilometers and up to 300 figures have been found. Until now… 

So over 140 new Nazca lines have been recently discovered! And it is a BFD! 

Credit: Newsweek

The discovery was made by scientists in the Yamagata University in Japan (it is important to note that there are strong historical ties between the Asian and Latin American countries). As The Independent reports, the findings are a result of a mixed methodology that involved both human and machine intelligence, and money from industry: “The research team used a combination of on-the-ground fieldwork and data analysis to identify these newest carvings, or geoglyphs. Working in partnership with IBM Thomas J Watson Research Centre, the team was able to use artificial intelligence to scan aerial images and for what they called “biomorphic” shapes, or shapes that look similar to plants, animals, or humans.”

Some of the newly discovered lines have a humanoid form, which also echoes the beliefs of those who believe that “the truth is out there.”

As The Independent reported, theories relating the lines with alien spaceships are around since the late 1960s: “A 1968 book, Chariot of the Gods, hypothesised that the geoglyphs were constructed by ancient peoples as landing strips for alien visitors.”

This is how The Smithsonian Magazine described this humanoid figure: “The etching almost resembles a contemporary cartoon character or mascot. Its subject stands on two legs, wears a hat of sorts represented by three lines rising above its vaguely television-shaped head, and wields a club or stick in its right hand”. 

The researchers also found pottery near the newly discovered lines.

Key to evaluating the archeological significance of the lines is finding evidence of human settlement or camps in the area. The researchers did field work and found shards of pottery buried in the sand. This is significant as it can help date the lines by making the assumption that the pottery was left there roughly at the same time as the lines were drawn. According to researchers, the lines are about 2,000 years old. Think about it: the Roman Empire was still a thing when indigenous civilizations in what is not the Americas drew these enigmatic figures. 

As technology advances, these kinds of discoveries will be more common: Artificial Intelligence rules.

Akihisa Sakurai, a researcher with IBM Japan, told The Verge: “We specifically built techniques in the deep learning framework to learn and distinguish between these different patterns and sizes of the geoglyphs”. There are still vast areas in Peru’s southern desert that need to be studied, but through computers scientists can run algorithms that identify 

The research will continue! 

Key in finding these giant drawings of animals, plants and humanoids is bringing together data from different sources. In the next few months, and even years, the researchers will overlap images from drones and satellites with geographical survey data to potentially find new drawings. The biggest challenge, however, is to keep the lines intact. In the past few years they have suffered all sorts of misadventures: a truck veered off the highway and left tyre marks on them, rainfall is eroding the land, pig growers have left their animals loose in the area and illegal mining and agriculture is also damaging the site, which UNESCO has names a World Heritage site and which, as such, should be preserved for posterity.

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Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus


Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Joao Laet / Getty Images

With news headlines like “How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous communities”, it’s hard to understate the affect that the Coronavirus has had on Indigenous communities across the world.

Even before the pandemic hit, native populations were already at increased risk of health complications, poor access to medical care, lack of proper education, and even premature death. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues as government programs and NGOs who delivered aid to far flung communities have grind to a halt.

However, many communities have started taking the matter into their own hands by creating their own impromptu healthcare systems based on ancestral techniques and others have barricaded off their villages from the outside world in an effort to stem the flow of the virus.

In Peru, many Indigenous communities are turning to centuries-old medicines to fight back against the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on Peru – the country with the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 mortality rate. At particular risk is the nation’s large Indigenous community, who often lack proper access to education efforts and medical care. This has forced many Indigenous groups to find their own remedies.

In the Ucayali region, government rapid response teams deployed to a handful of Indigenous communities have found infection rates as high as 80% through antibody testing. Food and medicine donations have reached only a fraction of the population. Many say the only state presence they have seen is from a group responsible for collecting bodies of the dead.

At least one community, the Indigenous Shipibo from Peru’s Amazon region, have decided to rely on the wisdom of their ancestors. With hospitals far away, doctors stretch too thin and a lack of beds, many have accepted the alternative medicine.

In a report by the Associated Press, one villager, Mery Fasabi, speaks about gathering herbs, steeping them in boiling water and instructing her loved ones to breathe in the vapors. She also makes syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways.

“We had knowledge about these plants, but we didn’t know if they’d really help treat COVID,” the teacher told the AP. “With the pandemic we are discovering new things.”

One of the plants the Shipibo are using is known locally as ‘matico.’ The plant has green leaves and brightly colored flowers. And although Fasabi admits that these ancestral remedies are by no means a cure, the holistic approach is proving successful. She says that “We are giving tranquility to our patients,” through words of encouragement and physical touch.

Even before the Coronavirus, Indigenous communities were at a greater risk for infectious diseases.

Indigenous peoples around the globe tend to be at higher risk from emerging infectious diseases compared to other populations. During the H1N1 pandemic in Canada in 2009, for example, aboriginal Canadians made up 16% of admissions to hospital, despite making up 3.4% of the population.

Covid-19 is no exception. In the US, one in every 2,300 indigenous Americans has died, compared to one in 3,600 white Americans.

Indigenous groups are particularly vulnerable to dying from Covid-19 because they often live days away from professional medical help. As of July 28, the disease had killed 1,108 indigenous people and there had been 27,517 recorded cases, with the majority in Brazil, according to data published by Red Eclesial Panamazonia (Repam).

Some communities are turning inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food.

Despite the immense threat they face, Indigenous communities are fighting back.

“I am amazed to see the ways that indigenous peoples are stepping up to provide support where governments have not,” Tauli-Corpuz, a teacher at Mexico’s UNAM, told The Conversation. “They are providing PPE and sanitation, making their own masks, and ensuring that information on Covid-19 is available in local languages, and are distributing food and other necessities.”

They are also choosing to isolate. In Ecuador’s Siekopai nation, about 45 Indigenous elders, adults and children traveled deep into the forest to their ancestral heartland of Lagartococha to escape exposure to the Coronavirus, says the nation’s president Justino Piaguaje.

Despite their best efforts, many experts are extremely concerned for the survival of many Indigenous communities.

Credit: Ginebra Peña / Amazonian Alliance

They are already facing the ‘tipping point’ of ecological collapse due to increased threats of deforestation, fires, industrial extraction, agribusiness expansion and climate change,” Amazon Watch executive director Leila Salazar-Lopez told UNESCO of Amazonian Indigenous groups.

“Now, the pandemic has created one more crisis, and as each day passes, the risk of ethnocide becomes more real.”

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This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online


This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

Drew Angerer / Getty

An Indigenous woman from Utqiagvik, Alaska who is part of the Iñupiaq tribe is TikTok’s latest culture sensation.

While the rest of us are stuck indoors and quarantining, Patuk Glenn has been amassing a following on Instagram and teaching her 81,000 followers about the Iñupiaq culture, traditions, and daily routines. From sharing videos about hunting to showing off her culture’s traditional clothing, Glenn’s videos are a reminder that beyond being alive, indigenous cultures around the globe are resilient– even in the face of our world’s constant attempts to change and eliminate them.

Glenn’s trending TikTok videos run the gamut from cooking to wearing her traditional clothing.

In some videos, Glenn shares the recipe for Inuit ice cream (caribou fat, ground caribou meat, and seal meat) or shares what her traditional clothing looks like. In one truly insightful clip, she takes her followers through a traditional ice cellar in her mother’s house. There, Glenn shared with her viewers that she and her family use the permafrost surround the cellar to preserve whale, seal, and caribou.

Given some of the food content, some of Glenn’s videos have received some backlash to which she isn’t batting much of an eye.

In videos where Glenn features food from whales (muktuk, or whale skin) she says that she has become used to receiving not so positive comments on occasion. Speaking to CBC News, Glenn explained that such comments are hurtful at times but mostly only inspire to continue to educate her followers more. “At first I was really upset,” she explained. “From there, with all of the negative backlash, I felt like it was my responsibility to help educate on why our Inuit people in the Arctic are hunters and gatherers.”

Glenn says that negative comments only push her to share more and educate her followers, particularly because she would like her daughter to be able to share her love for her culture one day as well. “We don’t want our kids to feel ashamed of who they are and where they came from. That’s what really hurt me the most.”

Impressively, Glenn says that learning on TikTok has become a two-way street too.

From TikTok, Glenn says that she has been able to learn and educate herself more about other Indigenous cultures as well. Glenn’s growing understanding of these groups and tribes (like Navajo and Cree) are a welcome surprise. Particularly for someone who, like the rest of us, is taught very little about the world’s Indigenous populations. “In the United States, we’re largely left out of the media. There’s no representation of us,” Glenn shared. “It’s 2020, we have a real opportunity in this day and age to be able to educate the world where institutional education has failed, or where mainstream media has failed.”

For Glenn, her fight to teach others more about her culture is vital. “This platform is helping give the power back into Indigenous people’s hands, to speak on behalf of themselves. I think that’s the really cool piece of it.”

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