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Archaeology & History

Nazca bird geoglyphs depict 'exotic' species

By T.K. Randall
June 22, 2019 · Comment icon 53 comments

What is the significance of the geoglyphs ? Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 Martin St-Amant
A new study has reignited the debate over the mysterious line drawings and why they were created.
Situated on a remote arid plateau in southern Peru, the Nazca Lines are a series of spectacular artistic designs, including images of spiders, monkeys, hummingbirds, fish and lizards, which were etched in to the desert floor almost 2,000 years ago.

Deciphering the meaning behind the images however has long proven a challenge.

Now a new study conducted by a trio of researchers from Japan has suggested that previous studies may have misinterpreted the exact species of bird depicted in some of the images.

An ornithological analysis has revealed that the geoglyph thought to be a hummingbird is actually a hermit - a specific subgroup of hummingbird native to the forests of northern and eastern Peru.

Another image described simply as "a bird" is now believed to be a type of pelican, as is a separate geoglyph previously thought to depict a guano bird.
The researchers were unable to identity all 16 bird geoglyphs, however it is possible that some of them show species that have since gone extinct.

Intriguingly though, the findings seem to suggest that exotic, non-native bird species may have held special significance to the ancient people who created the geoglyphs.

"If exotic/non-local birds were not significant for the Nazca people, there [would be] no reason to draw their geoglyph," said study co-author Masaki Eda of the Hokkaido University Museum in Japan.

"So, their existence should be closely related to the purpose of etching geoglyphs."

"But the reason is difficult to answer."

Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Comments (53)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #44 Posted by skliss 5 years ago
So I caught part of an "Unearthed" today about the Nazca lines.  The archeologists brought up the idea of drawings being graph blocked as an answer to spacing out the glyphs but they showed in 3D how many of them are asymmetrical.  As an alternative it was suggested the Nazca used a central line and they paced out the drawings and the archeoligists tried making a simple design. The fact that people have different lengths in their strides accounted in their opinion, for the lack of symmetry. They also definitively said there is no high place/mountain where they Nazca could have looked at... [More]
Comment icon #45 Posted by Harte 5 years ago
Harte
Comment icon #46 Posted by Kenemet 5 years ago
What I wonder is if anyone's used superposition to figure out which parts were laid down first... and second, etc.  It could be that whoever did each design group essentially ignored other designs (much as gang sign will overwrite or ignore other gang sign in tagging... or even deliberately overwrite it.) ...this is based on my informal study of rock art.
Comment icon #47 Posted by skliss 5 years ago
Like I said, I wish I could have watched the whole thing. They also showed how they could have used line of sight, cordage and sticks to make the almost perfectly straight lines. Very interesting.
Comment icon #48 Posted by Mellon Man 5 years ago
Although only one is an archaeologist, archaeology is based on personal interpretation. 
Comment icon #49 Posted by Kenemet 5 years ago
(insert very skeptical and somewhat offended tone) ...and you know this... HOW?   (asking for an archaeologist... and an archaeologist's dig crew member (me))
Comment icon #50 Posted by Mellon Man 5 years ago
Because I am an archaeologist. Archaeology is pure interpretation. If you are a 'crew member' you should know this. May I ask what is your role within your unit? 
Comment icon #51 Posted by Kenemet 5 years ago
I'm a part-time shovelbum.  What digs have you been involved with?  I recently did the Palo Duro Canyon one with TAS. What's your specialty?
Comment icon #52 Posted by Mellon Man 5 years ago
Are you attached as a volunteer? I would expect you to at least have done some context sheets. Can you please explain how you fill one out without personal interpretation. I am shocked that a Part-Time 'shovelbum' either dont know or dont understand why and how archaeology is based on interpretation.  Addition: Several, my most recent, which I just returned from today, involved an excavation of a prehistoric round mound. As to my specialities, I would rather keep them private and not public. But several users on this forum know of them. 
Comment icon #53 Posted by Kenemet 5 years ago
I see from other interactions that we're not communicating well.  At this point, I understand that what you mean by "interpretation" is not what I originally thought and apologize that I took offense at what seemed to be a dismissal of good technique and scholarship and research with a "interpretive (i.e., "channeling") approach.


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