RIP Nazca Mummies (Vacation Part IV)

After our flight over the Nazca lines, we toured the Chauchilla Cemetery, the Nazca’s final resting place that dates back to 200-900 AD. The preservation techniques used by the Nazca, together with the arid conditions, created an amazing combination for body preservation. The tombs were discovered in the 1920s and subsequently raided countless times before the government placed them under protection and took efforts to restore some of the tombs to their original condition and rebury other remains.  It is a surreal site: the barren landscape stretches endlessly and yet these tombs lie within.  The mummies themselves initially appear almost fake, the gruesome details too perfect – a foot, teeth, hair.  But once the reality sets in that these were real, live people, it gets creepy.  So just in time for Halloween (and with all due respect to the dead), I bring you the mummies:

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Notable qualities of the mummies include the finely woven textiles that cover them, the fetal position they are all bound in and the fact that apparently they all face east in the tombs.  I say apparently because the graves were robbed and later restored, so how we can know that all the mummies faced east?  Maybe only certain ones did – dignitaries, women, peasants, who knows?  There is also a theory that the very long haired mummies were the shamans or priests of the community, but I am not sure what support there is for that theory.  In addition to the dead, the tombs contain animals, pottery and other artifacts, including seashells.  Regardless of what we don’t know, the cemetery is an incredible, albeit morbid, sight.

Preceding the Incas and the Nazcas were the Paracas, who lived in the Ica desert between 1300 BC and 200 AD.   Before heading to coastal Paracas to continue our vacation, we also saw some Paracas lines, which differ from the Nazca lines in that they are situated on the side of hills and depict humanoid figures instead of animal and geometric shapes.  The Paracas also are known for skull binding from birth until about age 8, which would create elongated or oddly shaped skulls believed to identify tribes, and brain surgery (not sure whether such surgery was necessitated due to the skull binding).  You guessed it – elongated heads and sand drawings – a theory that the Paracas were extraterrestrials also exists!

Paracas Lines

Paracas Lines

Next: We hit the beach!

Vacation Part III – Nazca Lines

“Please don’t puke, please don’t puke.”  That was my mantra as our Cessna 207 took off for our flight over the Nazca* Lines, the highlight of our fantastic vacation.

The Nazca Lines are ancient sand drawings, created by removing rocks in the desert to form the designs, that are generally believed to be created by the Nazca people between 400 and 600 AD.  There are hundreds of figures: geometric shapes, animals, flowers and one humanoid. The reason for their creation remains a mystery.  One theory holds they were part of religious rituals, another that they represent the constellations, still another that they were used as looms. One fringe theory, and Matt’s favorite, is that they were created by extraterrestrials.  My theory, with no science, research or anything else behind it besides my incredibly bad sense of direction, is that these people lived in a desert and there are no landmarks such as “turn left at the gas station.”  So the lines were a way to mark a house or family’s land.  Matt points out that a lot of these drawings are enormous, but I think the easy explanation is that outdoing the neighbors is ancient.  For the record, and Matt will back me, I did posit that Otzi, the Iceman, was really a criminal back when the scientific belief was that he was from the wealthy class, and current science now supports my criminal theory.  So I am awaiting my call from National Geographic on my stunning revelation as to the origins of the Nazca Lines.

Regardless of their origin, the lines are incredible.  I was delighted that 1) I didn’t puke (thank you Dramamine and magnetic wrist bands), 2) you really can see all the lines from the plane and 3) Matt took fantastic pictures.  While the flight pattern takes you over only a dozen drawings, I suspect someone researched how much swooping an average passenger’s stomach could handle and determined 12  was the limit.  Scaredy cats can go up a tower and see the hand and tree figures, but I found descending the rickety tower to be more frightening than the plane ride.


Whale (63 Meters)

Trapezoid (Believed to Be the Landing Strip for ET and Friends)

Trapezoid (Believed to Be the Landing Strip for ET and Friends)

ET Phone Home (Typically Called the Astronaut)

ET Phone Home (Typically Called the Astronaut but I Prefer ET)

Monkey and Landing Strip

Monkey (110 Meters) Above Landing Strip


Hummingbird (96 Meters)


Spider (Under and Parallel to the Deep, Diagonal Line)


Condor Soaring Downward (136 Meters)




Parrot (200 Meters)

Tree and Hands
Tree and Hands

Dog, but It Looks More Like a Cat to Me
Dog, but It Looks More Like a Cat to Me

* Nazca is also written Nasca, but that is too much like Nascar for me.  Sorry Tommy!

Next Up:  I see dead people.