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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