Sweeping over the vast coastal desert of southern Peru, archaeologists have discovered giant ground drawings older than the nearby, more famous Nazca Lines.
Using drone technology, a team from the Peruvian Ministry of Culture was able to map 25 new geoglyphs, or giant carvings, drawn into the ground. Many of these drawings are human figures, such as warriors and a dancing woman.
One of the most prominent of these is a giant drawing of a killer whale, considered a powerful creature in ancient Peruvian mythology, that is believed to be one of the oldest geoglyphs ever found.
The newly discovered geoglyphs are located in Peru's Palpa Valley some 250 miles south of the capital Lima.
Unlike the Nazca Lines, the newly discovered drawings are thin and long, often just several inches wide but stretching out many meters long. They are found on hillsides, also unlike the Nazca lines that are carved on flat ground, meaning they could be seen from the villages sitting in the valley below the hills.
The drawings are believed to have been etched into the ground by the ancient Paracas culture, which predate the Nazca people responsible for Peru's more well-known geoglyphs.
The Paracas flourished from 800 to 200 B.C. in the Ica, Pisco, and Chincha valleys before moving south to occupy the Palpa and Nazca valleys. They also built pyramids and invented technological advances in textiles and ceramics.
Archaeologists have yet to discover the purpose of geoglyphs, although a popular theory is that they were used as part of religious rituals. Most of the Nazca drawings are lines and geometric shapes, but some have been found in the form of a hummingbird, a monkey, and a pelican.
"In total we're talking about 1,200 years in which geoglyphs were produced," says Johny Isla, archaeologist at the culture ministry and head of the restoration team for the Nazca Lines.
Restoration Of The Killer Whale Geoglyph
Isla first found evidence of the orca geoglyph years ago while doing research at the German Archaeological Institute in Bonn. Isla found an image of the geoglyph in an archaeological catalog collected by German researchers in the 1960s.
With the help of Google Earth, Isla eventually discovered the location of the geoglyph in 2015 and, together with a team of six specialists, proceeded to restore the ancient drawing.
Because the Paracas lines are thinner than those found in Nazca, the drawings have become harder to decipher with a layman's eye. Time has also not been friendly to the ancient drawings.
"Being drawn on a slope, it is easier [for it] to suffer damage than [for] those figures that are in flat areas, such as those of the Nazca Pampa," Isla says.
Using the Nazca technique, Isla and his team used a thin layer of stones to outline the edges of the lines and then shaved a layer of earth between the lines to reveal lighter-colored earth. They then combined this with a Paracas technique to create a pile of dark stones that make up the orca's eye.
The geoglyph of an orca is believed to date back to 2,000 B.C.