Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Peru's Nasca Lines Point To Water Sources, Suggest UMass Researchers

Date:
December 1, 2000
Source:
University Of Massachusetts, Amherst
Summary:
The ancient "Nasca lines" created on the desert floor by native peoples in Peru thousands of years ago may not just be works of art, according to a team of scientists from the University of Massachusetts. The team, which includes hydrogeologist Stephen B. Mabee and archeologist Donald Proulx, suggests that some of the mysterious lines may in fact mark underground sources of water.

AMHERST, Mass. - The ancient "Nasca lines" created on the desert floor by native peoples in Peru thousands of years ago may not just be works of art, according to a team of scientists from the University of Massachusetts. The team, which includes hydrogeologist Stephen B. Mabee and archeologist Donald Proulx, suggests that some of the mysterious lines may in fact mark underground sources of water. The research project is detailed in the December issue of Discover magazine. The team also includes independent scholar David Johnson, an adjunct research associate in the department of anthropology at UMass, and geosciences graduate students Jenna Levin and Gregory Smith.

Related Articles


The lines were constructed in the desert in southwestern Peru about 1,500-2,000 years ago by the Nasca culture, prior to the invasion of the Incas. The lines, which are etched into the surface of the desert by removing surface pebbles to reveal the lighter sand beneath, depict birds and mammals, including a hummingbird, a monkey, and a man, as well as zigzags, spirals, triangles, and other geometric figures. Called "geoglyphs," the elaborate figures are located about 250 miles south of Lima, and measure up to 1.2 miles in length. Their meaning has been the object of centuries of speculation. Some experts have hypothesized that the figures had ceremonial or religious functions, or served as astronomical calendars. But a slate of scientific tests has led the UMass team to theorize that at least some of the geometric shapes mark underground water.

"Ancient inhabitants may have marked the location of their groundwater supply distribution system with geoglyphs because the springs and seeps associated with the faults provided a more reliable and, in some instances, a better-quality water source than the rivers. We're testing this scientifically," said Mabee. "The spatial coincidence between the geoglyphs and groundwater associated with underground faults in the bedrock offers an intriguing alternative to explain the function of some of the geoglyphs."

Proulx, who has studied the region for decades, notes that the symbols on the biomorphs (figures of animals, plants, and humans) and on Nasca pottery are almost identical. "There are representations of natural forces," he says, "Not deities in the Western sense, but powerful forces of sky and earth and water, whom they needed to propitiate for water and a good harvest."

The team has studied the drawings and taken water samples during three separate journeys to Peru, over the past five years. The research has been funded by a University of Massachusetts Healy grant, the National Geographic Society, and the H. John Heinz Charitable Trust.

"So far, the tests indicate that the underground faults provide a source of reliable water to local inhabitants. The water, in comparison with available river water, is better-quality in terms of pH levels, magnesium, calcium, chloride and sulfate concentrations," Mabee said.

Proulx carried out an archaeological survey of more than 128 sites in the drainage area, in conjunction with the geological research. His discoveries provided data for another piece of the puzzle — many archaeological sites were constructed near water-bearing faults and used this important secondary source of water.

The team was able to map the water's sources, and found that in at least five cases, the wells and aquifers corresponded with geoglyphs and archaeological sites. "They always seem to go together," said Mabee.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Massachusetts, Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Massachusetts, Amherst. "Peru's Nasca Lines Point To Water Sources, Suggest UMass Researchers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001201073347.htm>.
University Of Massachusetts, Amherst. (2000, December 1). Peru's Nasca Lines Point To Water Sources, Suggest UMass Researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001201073347.htm
University Of Massachusetts, Amherst. "Peru's Nasca Lines Point To Water Sources, Suggest UMass Researchers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001201073347.htm (accessed March 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster Than Ever

Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster Than Ever

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) A new study of nearly two decades of satellite data shows Antarctic ice shelves are losing more mass faster every year. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Homes Near Landslide in Washington

Raw: Homes Near Landslide in Washington

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) Aerial footage from KOMO shows several homes near a landslide in Washington. KOMO reports that at least one of the homes has been damaged. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Clean-Up Follows Deadly Weather in Okla.

Clean-Up Follows Deadly Weather in Okla.

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 25 Oklahoma counties after powerful storms rumbled across the state causing one death, numerous injuries and widespread damage. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least Four Dead After Floods in Northern Chile

At Least Four Dead After Floods in Northern Chile

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) At least four people have been killed by severe flooding in northern Chile after rains battered the Andes mountains and swept into communities below. Rob Muir reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins