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23 April 2006
New giant picture found on Peru's Nazca plateau

A new giant picture on the Nazca Plateau in Peru, which is famous for giant patterns that can be seen from the air, has been discovered by a team of Japanese researchers. The image is 65 meters long, and appears to be an animal with horns. It is thought to have been drawn as a symbol of hopes for good crops, but there are no similar patterns elsewhere, and the type of the animal remains unclear.
     The discovery marks the first time since the 1980s that a picture other than a geometrical pattern has been found on the Nazca Plateau. The picture was found by a team of researchers including Masato Sakai, an associate professor at Yamagata University, after they analyzed images from a U.S. commercial satellite. They confirmed it was a previously undiscovered picture in a local survey in March this year. It is located at the south of the Nazca Plateau, and apparently went undiscovered since few tourist planes pass over the area.
There is evidence that vehicles had driven in the area, and part of the picture is destroyed. Two parts of the picture, that appear to be horns, bear close resemblance to those that appear on earthenware dating from 100 BCE to 600 CE, during the time when the Nazca kingdom flourished, and it is thought that they relate to fertility rites.
     The research team will use images from the advanced land-observing satellite "Daichi," which was launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in January this year, to create a distribution map of images on the earth that can be seen from the air. "We want to identify all the images, and work to preserve earth pictures that are gradually being destroyed," Sakai said. Most of the newly-found designs were in the southern part of the Nazca plateau, which is away from the major tourist area to the north where hundreds of images have been discovered, Sakai added.

Sources: Mainichi Daily News, AFP, Yahoo! News (20 April 2006)

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