Artistic representations of the Paracas people

Ancient rock lines created by enigmatic Paracas culture predate Nazca geoglyphs

(Read the article on one page)

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , has revealed the discovery of a complex set of geoglyphs constructed by the mysterious Paracas people of Peru.  The architectural features, which date back 2,300 years, have been found to be aligned to the sunset during the winter solstice, and are believed to have been created to mark ceremonial mounds and residential sites, according to a new report in Live Science

The Paracas culture was among the earliest settled civilisations of the Chincha Valley, located 200 kilometres south of Lima, one of the largest and most productive regions of southern coastal Peru.  The Paracas civilisation arose around 800 BC, predating the Nazca, which came about in around 100 BC. While the Nazca are famous for their incredible geoglyphs etched into the landscape over an incredible 450 square kilometres, the Paracas are well-known for the large collection of skulls, which showed that at least some of their population had significantly elongated skulls , as depicted in the artistic representation above.

The famous Nazca lines, which date from 200 BC to 500 AD. Photo source: Wikimedia

According to Charles Stanish, the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, the newly discovered lines and mounds in the Peruvian landscape date back to around 300 BC, making them even older than the Nazca lines. In total, Stanish and his team found 71 geoglyph lines or segments, 353 rock cairns, rocks forming circles or rectangles, two U-shaped mounds, and one point at which a series of lines converged in a circle of rays.

Two rock lines that mark the June solstice - Peru

A view of two rock lines that mark the June solstice.  Credit: Charles Stanish

Many of the archaeological features were found to have astronomical alignments. For example, some lines marked the spot where the sun would have set during the June solstice, and the two U-shaped mounds and a larger platform mound also aligned to the solstice.  The researchers have suggested that the lines and mounds probably served as a way to mark time during festivals. "I don't think people needed the signposts, but it was more kind of a ritualized thing," said Stanish.  He added that the lines may have also been used to attract tradespeople and buyers from the coast and the Andes highlands.

Markers placed along one of the Paracas lines

Markers placed along one of the Paracas lines the day before the June solstice in 2013. Credit: Charles Stanish

While many of the lines have astronomical alignments, some others point to special places in the landscape, like some of the ancient pyramids in the region.  The research team therefore hypothesises that the lines served diverse purposes – some appear to mark time, others may attract participants to attend social events, and yet others point the way to sacred structures.

"The lines are effectively a social technology," Stanish said. "They're using it for certain purposes. Some people have said the lines point out sacred mountains. Sure, why not? The lines [might] point out sacred pyramids. Why not? The lines could [also] be used to point out processions," Stanish said of both the Nazca and Peru lines.

The study authors have said that the study is significant because it shed new light on the enigmatic ancient culture of the Paracas. “Social units, labour, and astronomically significant periods mesh, attracting participants to cyclical events in the midvalley zone. This case study refines our understanding of the processes of human social evolution prior to the development of archaic states.”

Featured image: Artistic representations of the Paracas people. Credit: Marcia K. Moore

By April Holloway

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Open Book Photo
A legend is a tale regarded as historical even though it has not been proven, and the term “myth” can refer to common yet false ideas. Many myths and legends describe our history, but they are often treated skeptically. This is because many of them, while explaining a phenomenon, involve divine or supernatural beings.

Human Origins

Noah's Sacrifice - watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’.

Ancient Technology

Opinion

The ancient and mysterious Sphinx, Giza, Egypt.
In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article