Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Between the Nazca Lines: Evidence vs. “I Wanna Believe”


Well, we now know what a Cargo Cult is, and we are now up to date on the recent research into the Nasca Lines. What I haven’t brought you completely up to date on is the actual Ancient Alien Theory explanation of the Nazca lines. The History Channel sums it up pretty succinctly:

“The Nazca Lines

 

Etched into a high plateau in Peru’s Nazca Desert, a series of ancient designs stretching more than 50 miles has baffled archaeologists for decades. Along with simple lines and geometric shapes, they include drawings of animals, birds and humans, some measuring more than 600 feet across. Because of their colossal size, the figures can only be appreciated from way up in the air—and there is no evidence that the Nazca people, who inhabited the area between 300 B.C. and 800 A.D., invented flying machines. According to ancient alien theorists, the figures were used to guide spaceships as they came in for a landing, and the lines served as runways.”[1]

Never mind the screamingly obvious problems with the description, it does do a good job of summing up what most people think of the Nazca lines, inaccuracies and all.



This idea that the lines were used as landing strips seems to come from the presence of the long trapezoidal geoglyphs and the supposed evidence of a leveled mountain top. Von Daniken mentions this in his books, but I haven’t found reference to it, or concern about it, in any of the research. Still, these ideas persist.

So, the theory goes that the lines were laid either by man or alien in order to direct and provide a location for space ship landings. Tying this into the Cargo Cult connection; after the Aliens stopped coming to earth with their cargo, we humans began to build a religion around them, attempting to bring our alien saviors back to earth with misinterpreted ritual.

Websites abound on the Internet and even the History Channel, which has produced two seasons of a show called Ancient Aliens, tout belief in and even evidence of aliens. You can find lots of people who are ready to explain the Ancient Alien Theory and tell you all about the evidence supporting it. Not too surprising the Nazca lines fall into this category of evidence.

Even after the modern research mentioned in my last post, these sites still claim that the lines cannot be explained, that scientist still search for an explanation to the cause of the lines, even though this is not true. The reality is that we do have both really good explanations and building methods that require little more than a stick and some string.



Well known Skeptic, Joe Nickell, was able to reconstruct the geoglyphs in a remarkably short time using basic, simply reproduced, and most certainly available instruments for the time. Nickell’s, his two cousins, a friend, his 11-year old nephew, and father reproduced the 440 foot long Condor in just over a day and a half (baring time off due to rain).[2] They used merely a knotted rope, stakes, and a T-square they constructed from two pieces of wood. I really recommend the article; it’s a pretty good example of how the Nazca and their ancestors could have produced the geoglyphs without alien help.


(This is the Condor re-produced by Nickell et al. [2])

So, now we know how the glyphs were probably made, we have a pretty solid theory on why the glyphs were made, we even know a fair bit about the culture of the Nazca (though I haven’t touched on that here). We’ve got the How, the Why, the When, and even the Where. At every point we know humans did this, and not once is an outside force required to accomplish any of it.

Nickell also makes a point about the whole “They can ONLY be seen from the SKY” statement:

“It is frequently asserted that the Nazca drawings are recognizable only from the air. That is not quite true, certainly not of the smaller figures, such as the effigy of a fish, which is only 80 feet long (Reiche 1976). Neither is it true of some drawings — attributed to the Nazcas’ predecessors — that are found on hill slopes (McIntyre 1975; Isbell 1978, 1980). Here, seemingly, is a clue to how the Nazcas could have been confident of the accuracy of their method of enlargement. Once a technique was found to be successful for producing large drawings on slopes, where they could actually be viewed from the ground, the same technique could be expected to consistently yield good results — wherever figures were drawn and whatever their size.” [2]

This point was also made by The Nazca-Palpa Project in 2007 [3], where they not only dated the geoglyphs and gave sequence order to the deposition, they remarked that the smaller glyphs could be seen from a short distance, like from a slope [3].

I would hope at this point that I’ve provided enough evidence to remove aliens from the picture. I can show that the geoglyphs were most probably a cultural tool used to create a sense of community and possibly served ritual purposes dating from about 400 BC till sometime after 600 AD [3]. I have shown that they could have been created using nothing more than a sketch, knotted rope, and T-square [2], all of which was available in that time period. There is also the well known C-14 dates of the pottery sherds and burials associated with the lines, which help us put the lines into context [2,3]. There is no need to add aliens to the mix, they are unnecessary. They create a complication that is not needed since everything has a simple, human explanation. 

As I say in all my presentations, if you are a True Believer, there isn’t a damn thing I can provide to change your mind. All the evidence in the world will be wasted on you, but if you came to this looking to have a few questions answered, I can help you there.

References: 
The History Channel
 
2011    Evidence of Ancient Aliens? The History Channel website.
http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens/articles/evidence-of-ancient-aliens.
Accessed Jan 25, 2011.


Nickell, Joe

            1983  The Nazca Drawings Revisited: Creation of a Full-Sized

Skeptical Inquirer Magazine

Volume 7.3, Spring 1983.
                        http://www.csicop.org/si/show/nazca_drawings_revisited/
Accessed Jan 25, 2011.

 

Isla, Johny
        2007        Nazca-Palpa Project: Photogrammetric Reconstruction of the
                        Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa
                        January 2007
                        http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/peru/index.html
Accessed Jan 09, 2011.

2 comments:

  1. A good article. It does have some holes. While I think it is perfectly obvious that ancient people could have produced any of the monuments we still have with us today, the purpose of the Nazca lines is still not forthcoming.

    It is also perfectly reasonable to say that it most likely has nothing to do with aliens. Sadly, we may never know the specifics for why the lines were created. A true mystery, that doesn't need aliens to make it fascinating.

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  2. I think the conclusions of the Nazca-Palpa Project were perfectly reasonable. It's true that we will never be able to say 100% what the Nazca lines were for, but I think we can make perfectly logical suggestions by looking at the culture of the people and artifacts left behind.

    I personally don't see a reason for these lines to be called a mystery any more.

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