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16 December 2012
New light on the Nazca Lines

The first findings of the most detailed study yet by two British archaeologists into the Nazca Lines - enigmatic drawings created between 2,100 and 1,300 years ago in the Peruvian desert - have been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.
     As part of a five-year investigation, Professor Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, and Dr Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, have walked 1,500 kilometres tracing the lines and geometric figures created by the Nasca people between 100 BCE and 700 CE.
     Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeo-astronomy at the University, and Saunders combined the experience and knowledge gained by walking the lines with scientific data obtained from satellite digital mapping, studying where designs are superimposed, and examining the associated pottery. The result is the most detailed such study to date.
     In the midst of their study area is a unique labyrinth originally discovered by Ruggles in 1984. "The labyrinth is completely hidden in the landscape, which is flat and virtually featureless. As you walk it, only the path stretching ahead of you is visible at any given point. Similarly, if you map it from the air its form makes no sense at all."
     "But if you walk it, 'discovering' it as you go, you have a set of experiences that in many respects would have been the same for anyone walking it in the past. 'Sharing' some of those experiences by walking the lines ourselves is an important source of information that complements the 'hard' scientific and archaeological evidence and can really aid our attempts to make anthropological sense of it."
     Segments of nearly all of the Nazca lines and figures - including the labyrinth - have been washed away by flash floods that occur from time to time. Ruggles and Saunders have studied the integrity of many lines and figures within their 80 square kilometre study area. The pristine state and well-preserved edges of the labyrinth suggest that it was never walked by more than a few people in single file.

Edited from Univeristy of Leicester (10 December 2012)

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