Lost Civilizations of the Andes

David Pratt

Jan 2010, last updated Nov 2020

Part 1 of 2


Part 1
1. The Incas
2. Pre-Inca cultures
3. Transoceanic contacts
4. The Nazca lines

Part 2
5. ‘Inca’ stonemasonry [11/20]
6. ‘Inca’ sites [06/19]
7. Tiwanaku

1. The Incas

In 1532 Francisco Pizarro and a small band of Spanish mercenaries landed on the desert coast of Peru and made their way into the Andean highlands. At that time the Inca empire – known as Tahuantinsuyu, or ‘land of the four quarters’ – stretched 5500 km, from southern Chile to modern-day Colombia, and had a population of over 10 million. The Spaniards enticed the Inca ruler, Atahualpa, to a supposedly peaceful meeting and took him captive, promising to release him if a huge ransom was paid – a room full of gold and two of silver. The ransom – worth about $50 million by today’s standards – was duly paid, but the conquistadors then strangled Atahualpa to death and marched on Cuzco, the Inca capital.

Manco Cápac, Atahualpa’s half-brother, was appointed puppet ruler, but after a few years of obedience, he rebelled. In 1536 the Inca army gathered outside the walls of Cuzco and in the fortress at Sacsayhuaman. A fierce battle with the Spaniards ensued. Thanks to their powerful war-horses, steel weapons and sheer audacity, less than 200 conquistadors managed to defeat 100,000 Inca warriors, putting 1500 of them to the sword. Within a few years, and with gold-hungry reinforcements pouring in from Panama, all serious resistance to the Spaniards was destroyed. The Incas’ last jungle refuge, at Vilcabamba, fell in 1572.

There were several reasons why the early stages of the conquest of the mighty Inca empire were largely accomplished without major battles. First, the Incas were divided: the death of the 11th Inca ruler, Huayna Capac, around 1527 was followed by a civil war in which Atahualpa deposed his brother Huascar. Second, after the arrival of the Spanish in Central America, infectious diseases such as smallpox swept through South America, reducing the population by two-thirds. Third, the 8th Inca ruler had prophesied around 1432 that within five generations foreigners would come and conquer the Incas. Huayna Capac later said that he would be the last emperor, and instructed his sons and the rest of his court to obey and serve the invaders.1 The conquistadors were therefore initially seen as ‘viracochas’, a reference to the Incas’ legendary white culture-bringer and creator god, Viracocha. However, due to their greed and brutality they were soon reclassified as devils.

According to the standard history of the Incas, as put forward, for example, by Garcilaso de la Vega, the son of a conquistador and an Inca princess, the Inca people arrived in the Cuzco area in the 12th century AD, and had been ruled over by 13 Incas up to and including Atahualpa. But this version may refer only to last dynasty of rulers. According to Blas Valera, the son of a conquistador and a female native, who drew on information from Peruvian priests and the descendants of the amautas (sages), there had been 101 rulers, which would take us back to around 1220 BC. Excavations in Marcavalle, 4 km south of Cuzco, show that the Cuzco valley had been inhabited uninterruptedly by an agricultural and pastoral society since 1400 BC.2

At first the Incas collaborated peacefully with other ethnic groups in the Cuzco region. Around 1430 the Chancas from the north invaded the area. After defeating them, the Incas began the age of expansion under Pachacuti. Quechua was made the official language, and sun worship the official religion.

Fig. 1.1 Inca expansion.3

The Inca pantheon was presided over by Viracocha, followed by Inti, the sun god, and Pachamama, the earth goddess. ‘Viracocha’ is usually said to mean ‘foam of the sea’, but more literally it means ‘fat of the sea’, fat being a symbol of life and strength. Another possible interpretation is ‘tilted plane of the (celestial) sea’ – a reference to the inclination of the ecliptic to the celestial equator.4 According to the standard version of Inca mythology, the first ruler of the Kingdom of Cuzco was called Manco Cápac. In one legend, he was the son of Viracocha, and in another, he was brought up from the depths of Lake Titicaca by Inti. The Inca sovereign was held to be the ‘child of the sun’.

The Maya of Central America believed that they were living in the fourth world-age, which is widely thought to end in 2012. The Aztecs held that the current age was the fifth. The Incas likewise believed that their own culture was the fifth age, or fifth ‘sun’. In the first age, people were nomads, lived in caves and had to fight off wild animals. In the second, they lived in crude round houses in fixed settlements. In the third age people multiplied, practised weaving, built houses like those of today, grew crops and lived in harmony. The fourth age, or age of warriors, began with internal conflicts; warriors left field and family, and human sacrifices were carried out. Each world-age is said to end with a cataclysm: the first was ended by water, the second by the ‘falling of the sky’ (a poleshift?), the third by fire, and the fourth by air.5

The Incas believed that ‘in this world we are exiled from our homeland in the world above’. In Andean accounts, the ordeal required to find our way back to the celestial realms was frequently symbolized as the crossing of a narrow bridge made of human hair spanning a raging river.6 The Buddhists use a similar metaphor, speaking of the quest to ‘reach the other shore’, meaning the attainment of full adeptship, or as the Egyptian Pyramid Texts call it, ‘the life of millions of years’; further incarnation on earth is then unnecessary and the initiate can either enter nirvana and leave the earth behind, or stay on earth out of compassion in order to foster the progress of the rest of humanity. Despite the echoes of the ancient wisdom in Inca beliefs, the Inca leaders abandoned the instructions of ‘Father Sun’ that they should rule a society based on justice and reason with ‘pity, mercy and mildness’, and introduced the degenerate practice of human sacrifice to placate the gods – which stems from taking the symbolism of certain initiatory rites literally.7 For instance, the Incas performed child sacrifices during or after important events, such as the death of the ruler or during a famine.8

Inca society was highly regimented. The common people were equal both socially and in worldly goods. From birth to death, their lives – including their tasks, social status, homes and marriages – were planned and regulated according to the prevailing laws. The head of each family receive a portion of land according to the size of his family. The residents of each community were allowed to keep one third of the fruits of their labour; the rest was given to the state, to pay for the government, army, wars, the royal family and the ceremonial religion. Law and order were rigidly enforced. The most serious crime was blasphemy, directed at the sun, the priests or the Inca; the penalty was torture and death. Murder and adultery were also punishable by torture or death. Those guilty of theft or dishonesty were branded for life. Liars and scandalmongers were flogged for the first offence, beaten with a club for the second, and had their tongues nailed to a board for the third. A virgin of the sun or any nun who violated her vows was buried alive, her village was destroyed and many of its inhabitants killed.9

The conquistador Don Mancio Serra de Leguisamo, in a moment of remorse, wrote as follows about the impact of the conquest on Inca morality:

They were so free from crimes and excesses, the men as well as the women, that the Indian who had 100,000 pesos of gold and silver in his house, left it open, merely placing a small stick across the door as a sign that the master was out, and no one could enter or take anything that was inside. ... When they found we put locks and keys on our doors, they supposed it was for fear of them that they might not kill us, not because they believed that anyone would steal the property of another. So, when they found we had thieves among us and men who sought to make their daughters commit sin, they despised us. But now they have come to such a pass, in offence of God, owing to the bad example we have set them in all things, that the natives, from doing no evil, have changed into people who now do no good or very little.10


The Inca civilization is credited with the magnificent monumental architecture that adorns its sacred sites; polygonal stone blocks are fitted so perfectly that not even a razor blade can be inserted between them, even though no mortar was used. The best-known temples and other structures are found at Cuzco, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Machu Picchu. As we will see later, there is no reason to attribute all examples of this construction method to the Incas.

Fig. 1.2 Detail of ‘Inca’ wall in Cuzco.1

Mainstream archaeologists assume that the Incas built most of the agricultural terraces that cover the hillsides of the Sacred Valley, through which runs the Urubamba river, regarded as the terrestrial counterpart of the Milky Way. The terraces usually have retaining walls made of rough fieldstones, but at Inca royal estates such as Chinchero, Pisac, Yucay, and Ollantaytambo, they have higher walls made of cut stones. The terraces consist of a lower layer of coarse rubble for drainage purposes, and an upper layer of good topsoil, which sometimes had to be carried long distances up the mountain from the valley below. Terraces were usually 2.4 to 4.3 m high and 1.8 to 4.6 m wide, though on steep slopes they were as narrow as 1 m. In parts of the Andes, hillsides containing 100 terraces, one above the other, are not uncommon. As Hiram Bingham wrote: ‘It fairly staggers the imagination to realize how many millions of hours of labour were required to construct the agricultural terraces.’2

Fig. 1.3 Terraces at Pisac, Sacred Valley.

Fig. 1.4 Terraces at Moray. The tiered basin is 183 m wide and 79 m deep. The 12 terraces are stabilized by stone walls, some as high as 7.5 m. The first six terraces are thought to have been made by the pre-Inca Wari people, who occupied the region from around 600 to 1100 AD. Some think Moray was a ritual complex. Others believe it was a huge agricultural laboratory where different soils, plant varieties and temperature regimes were tried out. The structure of the basin produces a range of different soil temperatures.3

The Incas made use of an extensive road system, but it was not originated by them; they adapted and extended the roads made by pre-Inca engineers. At its height, the road network was 5600 km long and included 23,000 km of interlinking roads, thereby exceeding the size of the ‘Roman’ road system (much of which predated the Romans). The roads were built on beds of masonry, and were about 7.3 m wide, but often narrower in the mountains. They were levelled and smoothed by paving, and in some places by ‘macadamizing’ with pulverized stone mixed with lime and bituminous cement. In places, roads were cut through mountains for kilometres, great ravines were filled up with solid masonry, and rivers were crossed by means of a kind of suspension bridge anchored by a twin stone tower at each end. The cables, made of tightly twisted plant fibre, were as thick as a man’s body. The most famous such bridge spans the Apurimac River in the Peruvian Andes, with cables nearly 46 m long. Some pre-Inca roads were as much as 30 m wide and stretched hundreds of kilometres; the reason for their great width is unknown.4

Fig. 1.5 ‘Inca’ roads.5

The Incas used quipus for recording-keeping – knotted bundles of strings in which the number, type and spacing of knots, the colour and type of string, and the general quipu structure carried information. They were used for accounting and census purposes. It is thought that some quipus were literary quipus: in these, the knots were combined with coloured rectangular signs or oval signs (‘bean signs’) known as tocapus, which also appear on textiles and other objects. Tocapus should be considered a developed ideographic system rather than writing in the strict sense. Many quipus with elaborate symbols were burned by the Spaniards, while others were hidden or disposed of by the Incas themselves.6

Fig. 1.6 An old print of an Inca holding a quipu.

The common assertion that the Incas did not have a genuine form of writing is incorrect. The writing system was known as quilcas, and predates the use of quipus. Blas Valera reported that the learned scribes wrote on the leaves of plantain trees and on stones. Several other chroniclers were told that in ancient times the Inca ruler gathered the wise men from all the provinces and ordered the history of each ruler and the lands conquered to be written down, along with the Inca myths and legends. The texts were written on sheets, glued onto large boards and set in frames of pure gold. They were stored in the Coricancha, or Temple of the Sun, in Cuzco, and only the Inca ruler and certain scholars were able to read them. The Spanish melted down the gold frames and destroyed nearly all the canvases. Four were sent to the Spanish king but there is no trace of them today. Inca Pachacutec VII later forbade the use of writing when an oracle said that this was necessary to end an epidemic.7

An ancient llama wool, possibly pre-Inca, far superior to most yarns known in the world today, has been found in a group of mummified llamas sacrificed in the desert of southern Peru 1000 years ago. The fibre was even finer than cashmere, and seems to have been the result of selectively breeding llamas.8 Some writers have suggested that the amazing variety of maize and potatoes in ancient Peru must be the result of genetic experiments.9


  1. William Sullivan, The Secret of the Incas: Myth, astronomy, and the war against time, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996, pp. 251, 255-7.
  2. Harold T. Wilkins, Mysteries of Ancient South America, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2005 (1947), pp. 143-4; Enrico Mattievich, Journey to the Mythological Inferno: America’s discovery by the ancient Greeks, Denver, CO: Rogem Press, 2010, pp. 144-6.
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Inca-expansion.png.
  4. The Secret of the Incas, pp. 108-9; Viracocha, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viracocha.
  5. The Secret of the Incas, pp. 26-7.
  6. Graham Hancock & Santha Faiia, Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the lost civilization, London: Michael Joseph, 1998, pp. 282, 295.
  7. H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press (TUP), 1972 (1877), 2:564-5.
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sacrifice; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sacrifice_in_pre-Columbian_cultures.
  9. A. Hyatt Verrill, Old Civilizations of the New World, New York: New Home Library, 1942 (1929), pp. 282-8.
  10. Quoted in Mysteries of Ancient South America, p. 167.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Inka_mauern_cuzco.jpg.
  2. Hiram Bingham, Lost City of the Incas, London: Phoenix, 2003 (1952), pp. 39-40.
  3. Science Frontiers, no. 174, 2007, p. 1.
  4. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Ancient Infrastructure: Remarkable roads, mines, walls, mounds, stone circles, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 1999, pp. 323-5; Peter James & Nick Thorpe, Ancient Inventions, New York: Ballantine Books, 1994, pp. 52-3.
  5. www.colorado.edu/geography/class_homepages/geog_3251_sum08/02_inca_roads.jpg.
  6. Igor Witkowski, Axis of the World: The search for the oldest American civilization, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2008, pp. 174-9, 184; W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Graphic artifacts I – coins, calendars, geoforms, maps, quipus, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2005, pp. 160-3.
  7. Mysteries of Ancient South America, pp. 141-4; Axis of the World, pp. 173-4, 180-1; Graeme R. Kearsley, Mayan Genesis: South Asian myths, migrations and iconography in Mesoamerica, London: Yelsraek Publishing, 2001, p. 537.
  8. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts – bone, stone, metal artifacts, prints, high-technology, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2003, p. 49.
  9. Carlos Fernández-Baca Tupayachi, El Otro Saqsaywamán: La historia no contada, Lima: DFBS, 2000, p. 179.

2. Pre-Inca cultures

The theory of the peopling of the Americas that became scientific orthodoxy in the mid-20th century claimed that the Americas were empty of humans until about 14,000 years ago when Mongoloid migrants from Northeast Asia trekked over the Bering land bridge; South America was supposedly first populated around 9 or 10 thousand years ago. Another claim was that, with the exception of a brief visit by the Vikings in the 11th century, the first person to subsequently discover the Americas was Christopher Columbus in 1492. More recently, the possibility of migrations up to several tens of thousands of years earlier than 14,000 BP has been accepted by many scientists. However, as shown in The Ancient Americas, there is evidence that the Americas were settled by migrants from different parts of the world over the course of millions of years, and that even in the past 4000 years explorers and traders from various continents visited the Americas before Columbus.

According to the theosophical tradition, the last major fragment of ancient Atlantis to sink was Poseidonis (Plato’s Atlantis), a large island located in the mid-Atlantic opposite the Straits of Gibraltar, which was submerged about 11,500 ago.1 In the period leading up to its final submergence, waves of migrants fled Poseidonis, and other smaller islands, as it showed increasing signs of geological instability. Some of these migrants are associated with the appearance of successive Cro-Magnon cultures in Western Europe and North Africa, beginning about 40,000 years ago. Caucasoid, Cro-Magnoid skeletons have also been discovered in the Americas. Theosophical literature says that there was a strong Atlantean influence on the Amerindians, including the later Maya and Incas.2

The officially accepted date of the earliest civilization in South America is gradually being pushed back as new discoveries come to light. Some of the main pre-Inca cultures of the past few thousand years are outlined below, with the main focus on Peru. The possibility that some of the artefacts and structures attributed to them are the work of even older cultures cannot be ruled out.

The radiocarbon dating of organic material (e.g. bone, flesh, wood) found at archaeological sites plays a key role in dating cultures of the past few tens of thousands of years. The two main potential sources of error are the changing ratio of C14 (the relatively rare radioactive isotope of carbon) to C12 (the most abundant carbon isotope) in the atmosphere, and contamination of the sample being dated. The resulting errors can be as large as hundreds or even thousands of years. But even if the date is accurate, it only tells us the age of the sample, and may indicate that humans were present in the area at that time. It does not necessarily tell us the earliest date humans occupied the area or the original date of construction of any stone structures at the site.

Furthermore, there is a certain amount of selectivity in reporting results. One archaeologist admitted: ‘If a C-14 date supports our theories, we put it in the main text. If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in the footnote. And if it is completely “out of date”, we just drop it.’ ‘Out of date’ refers not only to ages that are ‘too old’ but also to ages that are ‘too young’. Overly recent dates are assumed to indicate later human activity at a site. But this could also apply to the oldest dates so far determined for a site.3 Consequently, dogmatic pronouncements about the chronology of archaeological sites based on carbon-dating should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The most ancient Peruvian skeletal remains so far found date back to 7000 BC. These settlers had broad faces, pointed heads, and stood 1.6 metres tall. Early cave paintings have been discovered at Toquepala (Tacna, 7600 BC) and houses in Chilca (Lima, 5800 BC). Artefactual finds have led a growing number of scientists to believe that Peru was first settled 20 or more thousand years ago.4

Fig. 2.1 Map of Peru.

The Ayacucho Basin in central Peru consists of archaeological sites dating from 25,000 BP to 1470 AD, occupied by a series of some 23 cultures.5 The oldest artefacts are bone and stone tools used by a preceramic hunter-gatherer culture.

The Chilca Valley lies on the coast of Peru, between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and was an important trade route to the highlands. Hunter-gatherers inhabited this region from about 6000 to 2500 BC, the two main sites being Tres Ventanas and Kiqche. Primitive forms of vegetables such as potatoes, yams and ullucos were cultivated, and camelids (e.g. llamas) were domesticated.6

The Norte Chico (or Caral-Supe) civilization is associated with some 30 major population centres in north-central coastal Peru. It is currently regarded as the oldest known civilization in the Americas, and flourished between about 3000 and 1800 BC. It was a preceramic culture, but is known for its monumental architecture, including large platform mounds built from quarried stone and river cobbles, and circular sunken plazas. One of the main sites is Caral, a large urban settlement in the Supe Valley, some 120 km north of Lima, covering over 60 hectares. The main pyramid covers an area equal to nearly four football fields and is 18 m tall. Caral is thought to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over the next four millennia. There are 19 other pyramid complexes scattered across the Supe Valley, which might have had a total population of 20,000. An excavated knotted textile piece found at Caral is thought to be a primitive quipu.7

Fig. 2.2 Pyramids at Caral.

The Aspero site in the Supe Valley covered 13.2 hectares and its 17 mounds included 6 truncated pyramids. The largest is called Huaca de los Idolos: it measured 40 m by 30 m, and had rooms and courts on its summit. The outer platform walls are made of large, angular basaltic rocks set in adobe mortar with a smooth outer surface coated with plaster and occasionally painted. Associated radiocarbon dates range from 2900 to 1970 BC.8

Fig. 2.3 Reconstruction of the Huaca de los Idolos at Aspero. (Courtesy of J.Q. Jacobs)

The oldest sunken courts date from the 4th millennium BC and their use continued for thousands of years, first in circular and later in rectangular form. Michael Moseley says that the enduring emphasis on sunken sacrosanct spaces reflects Andean origin myths about humanity emerging from caves, springs and holes in the ground. As well as being places for reenacting human emergence, the courts may have been used to venerate Pachamama, mother earth, by reverently descending into and out of her womb. Subterranean plazas sometimes stand next to platform mounds, evoking ‘images of ritual processions descending into mother earth and then to father apu [mountain spirit]’.9

El Paraíso is situated in the Chillon River Valley, 2 km from the Pacific Ocean, in central Peru. It was the largest preceramic site in the Andes, and was occupied from about 1800 to 1200 BC. The site consists of 13 or 14 mounds spaced over a 60 hectare area with a nuclear group of seven mounds in an approximate U-shape with a central plaza. The buildings are made of about 100,000 tons of rock. As at other sites, rubble and stone were carried in woven reed bags and piled up behind retaining walls. The ruins were home to a population of about 1500 to 3000 people, who fished, gathered roots and wild fruit, hunted wild animals, grew cotton for textiles, and wove baskets.10

Fig. 2.4 Reconstruction of a prototypical U-shaped monument complex (courtesy of J.Q. Jacobs). There are at least 25 other documented sites in South America that share the distinctive El Paraíso layout.11

The Casma Valley on the northwest coast of Peru has numerous archaeological sites. The main one is Sechín Alto, which was occupied between about 1800 and 900 BC. James Jacobs writes:

With a U-shaped monument plan covering about 200 ha, it is one of the largest constructions ever built in Prehispanic America. Five plazas extend 1.4 km from the central mound, three with central sunken courts, one of which is about 80 m in diameter. The main mound is 44 m high by 300 m by 250 m, making it the largest single construction in the New World during the second millennium B.C. The mound was faced with granite blocks, some weighing over 2 tons.12

Beginning about 900 BC virtually all the coastal centres were abandoned within a century or two, coinciding with several hundred years of severe drought.

Fig. 2.5 Reconstruction of the Sechín Alto monument complex. (Courtesy of J.Q. Jacobs)

Fig. 2.6 Above: The 4.15-m-high granite palisade wall at Sechín Alto, made up of 400 sculptures.13 They appear to have been randomly assembled from another site. Below: The first of these two sculptures shows a man severed at the waist.14


In 2007 archaeologists discovered a 5500-year-old circular, sunken plaza at the Sechín Bajo complex in Casma, making it one of the oldest recognized structures in the Americas. It was hidden beneath a later structure. The plaza has lower levels that could be even older.15

The Chavín culture occupied the northern Andean highlands of Peru, about halfway between the tropical forests and coastal plains.16 It flourished from 900 to 200 BC, but formative phase of Chavín culture in various regions of Peru date back to 1600 BC. For a long time it was considered to be the first Peruvian civilization. The Chavín people cultivated crops using an irrigation system, tamed llamas, developed the techniques of gold, silver and copper metallurgy, and produced beautiful gold artefacts. They also made exquisite textiles, ceramics and musical instruments. Chavín art forms make extensive use of a technique known as ‘contour rivalry’. The 7-foot-high Raimondi stela, made of polished granite, is one of the finest examples of this technique. The art is difficult to understand because it was intended to be read only by high priests. Some sculptured heads have mucus pouring from the nose, something that happens when certain hallucinogenic drugs are used.

Fig. 2.7 Chavin territory.17

Fig. 2.8 The Raimondi stela, Chavin de Huantar. It bears a remarkably sophisticated carving of a staff god, which is also visible if the statue is inverted. This stela could not have been made with stone tools or copper chisels!18

The Chavín culture’s main architectural achievement is considered to be the remarkable temple known as the Castillo at Chavín de Huántar, a temple complex covering 15 hectares; the age of the oldest section of the temple is, however, unknown – estimates range from 700 AD to 1300 BC. Built of white granite and black limestone from distant quarries, its walls and galleries were filled with sculptures of ferocious deities with feline features. It has seven major subterranean rooms. Michael Moseley writes:

Less than one-tenth the magnitude of the great platform at Sechín Alto, what the Castillo lacks in size is compensated for by remarkable engineering, fine masonry, and marvelous stone art. The engineering is fascinating because a quarter of the Castillo interior is hollow and occupied by a labyrinth of narrow galleries roofed by great slabs of stone. Built at different levels, some galleries are connected by stairways and by an elaborate maze of small drains and vents that pass beneath the exterior plazas. ... [B]y flushing water through the drains and venting the sound into the chambers and then out again the temple could, quite literally be made to roar! ...
    The stonework at Chavín de Huantar was unquestionably the product of a master craftsman, and the Castillo reflects professional engineering as well as substantial corporate labour.19

Fig. 2.9 The Castillo, Chavín de Huántar.20

Fig. 2.10 Entrance to the Castillo.

The Moche civilization (also known as the Mochica or Early Chimú culture) flourished on the coast of northern Peru from about 100 to 800 AD.21 The Moche are particularly noted for their sophisticated ceramics and pottery, skilful metalwork, monumental constructions, and impressive irrigation systems. They were a warlike people, and many ceramics show brutal scenes of human sacrifice and blood drinking. The Moche were also traders and had contact with the Ica-Nazca culture to the south. The Moche culture’s demise was probably precipitated in the 6th century by a super El Niño that resulted in 30 years of intense rain and flooding followed by 30 years of drought.

At their capital, the Moche built two flat-topped pyramids, the Huaca del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and the Huaca de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon). The Huaca del Sol consisted of over 130 million adobe bricks and was the largest pre-Columbian adobe structure built in the Americas. It was partly destroyed when the Spaniards mined its graves for gold. Today its platform measures 340 by 160 m and stands over 40 m high. The nearby Huaca de la Luna is a better-preserved but smaller temple.

Fig. 2.11 Huaca del Sol.

The Lord of Sipán tomb is a Moche site that was found intact and untouched by thieves in the Lambayeque valley, 35 km east of Chiclayo, in 1987. The complex consists of three huge mudbrick pyramids with flat tops. The ruler of Sipán was buried there in 200 AD. His tomb has yielded an extraordinary cache of artefacts, including finely crafted gold and silver ornaments, large, gilded copper figurines, and wonderfully decorated ceramic pottery. The gold-plated silver and copper jewellery could only have been made with the help of electrolysis.22

The Chimú culture developed in the same coastal valleys of northern Peru where the Moche existed centuries before, and lasted from about 1000 AD to the late 1400s. The Chimú state underwent considerable expansion in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, but was conquered by the Incas around 1475. The Chimú were skilful potters and metalworkers, and built elaborate irrigation systems. Their capital city, Chan Chan, covered over 20 square kilometres and had a population of around 70,000.23 The Chimú worshipped the moon, regarding the sun as a destroyer, and mummified their dead.

The La Cumbre canal (or intervalley canal) is several metres wide and 113 km long, and is thought to have been built by the Chimú around 1050-1300 AD to bring water from the Chicama river into the Moche valley. It is part of a complex network of aqueducts and canals to transport water from mountain streams to irrigated fields. Running through difficult terrain, it represents an enormous amount of labour, and displays a high level of hydraulic engineering expertise. Parts of the canal were cut through rock and soil but many kilometres ran between embankments of rocky soil. In some places it towered 21.4 m above the surrounding terrain. Maintaining the proper slope in mountainous country was no mean task. To achieve maximum hydraulic efficiency, the cross section of the canal changes around curves, and where necessary the texture of the canal walls was varied to decrease water speed. It is believed that the canal was never used in its entirety because tectonic forces repeatedly raised or lowered sections of it, and today several sections run uphill.24 However, the canal could be far older than currently believed.

The Chimú built huge, sophisticated defensive structures from millions of adobe bricks. La Fortaleza, a fortress at Paramonga, 200 km north of Lima, was begun by the Chimú and later modified by the Incas.25 To protect the Chimú empire, walls 1.5 to 2 m high were built beginning about 500 BC. The Chimú’s Great Wall of Peru, discovered during an aerial survey in 1931, was much more ambitious, and extends as far as 80 km inland. Several circular and rectangular forts were built along the wall. The wall is made of broken rocks and adobe cement, and now averages about 2.1 m in height; its original height averaged 3.7 to 4.6 m. In places it is still 6 to 9 m high where it crosses gullies. Other great walls attributed to the Chimú have also been discovered. The Incas built their own Great Wall further south, in Bolivia. Made of broken stones, it is probably about 240 km long, and seems to be the longest in South America, though it is only a few feet high. It is built at altitudes of 2440-3660 m in extremely rugged terrain.26

The Paracas culture inhabited the south-central coast of Peru between about 600 and 175 BC. It had an extensive knowledge of irrigation and water management, and showed superb skills in textile weaving. Two necropolises dated to about 300 BC have yielded several hundred mummies, some of which have hair that is wavy, light brown, even reddish – more typical of a European than an indigenous American. They were also substantially larger than the average Andean.27 Some of the oldest traces of writing come from the Paracas necropolis culture, and take the form of bean signs on funerary textiles. Similar signs were discovered on the later Nazca culture’s textiles.28

The Paracas ‘Trident’ or ‘Candelabra’ is a huge cactus-shaped figure carved into a hillside at Pisco Bay on the Peruvian coast. It measures about 240 m long by 120 m wide, with trenches a metre deep, and can be seen from as far as 24 km out to sea. It is aligned almost exactly north-south. It is variously regarded as a navigational aid or as a ritual object, representing a cactus or tree of life, where high priests worshipped the setting sun. Paracas-culture pottery dated to about 200 BC has been found there. Graham Hancock notes that 2000 years ago, viewed from a kilometre out to sea, the constellation known as the Crux (Southern Cross) would have been suspended in the sky directly above the cliff diagram at the March equinox.29

Fig. 2.12 The Candelabra.

The Nazca (or Nasca) culture inhabited the coastal valleys of southern Peru from the 1st to 8th centuries AD. They constructed mudbrick pyramids up to 30 m high, and made beautiful polychrome pottery. They are widely believed to have made most of the Nazca ‘lines’ – vast geometric and animal figures etched into the desert floor (see section 4). The main ceremonial centre was Cahuachi, a site covering 1.5 sq km and containing over 40 mounds (modified natural hills) topped with adobe structures.

Fig. 2.13 Adobe pyramid at Cahuachi.30

Fig. 2.14 Cahuachi reconstruction.31

The Nazca people are believed to have built the impressive system of tunnels, wells and trenches – known collectively as puquios – to obtain water from subterranean water sources.32 But the truth is that no one can say for certain who originated them. Most of the excavated tunnels are less than one metre square, but some are about two metres high. The walls of the tunnels are lined with river cobbles without the use of mortar, and at the uppermost end the water filters between the stones into the gallery. The roof of the galleries is made of dressed granite slabs or wooden logs. The tunnels lie about 3 to 6 m underground, and it is not known for how many kilometres they run. Two of them pass beneath the bed of the Nazca river. The tunnels are connected with the surface by funnel-shaped holes (ojos), which also served as wells. The local population believed that the water in the puquios flowed from a great lake beneath Cerro Blanco – a 2500-m-high mountain not far from Nazca, topped by an enormous sand dune. There are 36 puquios still functioning in the Nazca drainage today.

Fig. 2.15

Fig. 2.16

Pachacamac, 40 km southeast of Lima, comprises a vast complex of monumental buildings, including 18 mud-brick stepped pyramids with ramps and plazas. The area was settled by the Lima culture around 200 BC, and the main ruins are allegedly no more than 1500 years old. Named after the creator god Pachacamac, the nearly 600-hectare site drew pilgrims who came to worship and bury their dead. Later it was occupied by the Wari culture, and became one of the most sacred places of the Inca empire.33 During excavations in the 1940s, the stratum beneath the mud-brick constructions – which is considered to predate the Incas – revealed stone walls and trapezoidal portals of the type usually attributed to the Incas.34


Fig. 2.17 Pachacamac Temple of the Sun and an ‘English’ sign. The temple is
attributed to the Incas but there is believed to be an older temple beneath it.

The Wari (or Huari) culture flourished in the Andes in the south-central coastal area of modern-day Peru, from about 500 to 900 AD.35 Its empire expanded to include much of the territory of the earlier Moche and Chimú cultures. The civilization was contemporary with that of the Tiwanaku culture to the south. The Wari are believed to have developed terraced field technology and a major road network, which the Incas inherited several centuries later. However, Andean tradition also gives the name ‘Wari’ to a race of prehistoric master-builders, described as white, bearded giants who, after being created at Lake Titicaca, set forth to civilize the Andes.36

Fig. 2.18 Territory of the Wari and Tiwanaku cultures.

Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) lies near the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca in western Bolivia. It flourished as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately 500 years. The official view is that it began as a small agriculturally-based village around 1500 BC, and became the capital of a powerful empire between 300 and 1000 AD, after which it was hit by a protracted drought. The culture practised a sophisticated form of agriculture and is credited with a number of monumental structures. The last traces of the Tiwanaku civilization were incorporated into the Inca empire around 1450. Nonmainstream views of Tiwanaku are considered in section 7.

The Chachapoyas, also called the Warriors of the Clouds, lived in the cloud forests in the northern regions of the Andes in present-day Peru. The people were taller and had a much fairer skin than other Native Americans. People began settling in this area by 200 AD, and the Chachapoyas culture is thought to have developed a few hundred years later. In the 15th century, the Inca empire expanded to incorporate the Chachapoyas region.

Kuelap is situated on a 3000-m-high ridge overlooking the Utcubamba valley. The site is officially attributed to the Chachapoyas culture, which occupied it from about 600 AD. Measuring about 600 m long by 110 m wide, the ruined citadel – usually called a ‘fortress’ – is surrounded by enormous walls towering up to 20 m high, constructed from gigantic limestone slabs arranged in geometric patterns, some sections being faced with rectangular (ashlar) granite slabs over 40 layers high. Within the walls are hundreds of round stone houses decorated with a distinctive zigzag or diamond pattern, small carved animal heads, condor designs, and intricate serpent figures.37


Fig. 2.19 Outer walls of Kuelap.

Fig. 2.20 Restored round house.

Fig. 2.21 Zigzag pattern.

The walls at Kuelap bear a curious resemblance to walls found at the Great Zimbabwe (lit. ‘stone buildings’) in the province of Masvingo, Zimbabwe (the country is named after the ruins). The site covers 722 hectares, and the mainstream belief is that construction was started in the 11th century by Bantu-speaking ancestors of the Shona people, and continued for over 300 years. Alternative theories are that the original structures were built by Phoenicians or Celts/Sabaeans thousands of years ago. Some researchers have noted Semitic, South Arabian, Persian, Indian, Indonesian and Polynesian influences on Zimbabwean cultures.38

Fig. 2.22 Granite, 11-m-high outer walls of the Great Enclosure at the Great Zimbabwe.
Note the same zigzag pattern as at Kuelap.39

The Marcahuasi (or Markawasi) plateau, 4000 metres above sea level, is located in Peru’s Junin province, 80 km northeast of Lima. Hundreds of enormous rocks on the plateau take on an eerie resemblance to animals and human faces when viewed from certain angles and under certain lighting conditions.40 Men and women of various races and nationalities can be identified, along with a wide array of animals such as horses, camels, elephants, lions, frogs, seals, turtles, sphinxes, a hippopotamus, sea lions or seals, a crocodile, and lizards. Many believe that these forms are nothing but naturally eroded rocks, while others contend that humans had a hand in carving them. Though known to the local population, Marcahuasi achieved prominence after being discovered by Peruvian archaeologist Daniel Ruzo in 1952. He claimed that the ‘Masma culture’ had lived there some 10,000 years ago, before ‘Noah’s flood’!


Fig. 2.23 Two human faces in the Marcahuasi stone forest.41


  1. See Theosophy and the seven continents and Sunken continents versus continental drift, https://davidpratt.info.
  2. See The Ancient Americas, section 8.
  3. Sean Hancock, An interpretation and critique of the radiocarbon database for Tiahuanaco, 2001, www.grahamhancock.com/forum/HancockS2-p1.htm.
  4. Peru: general information, www.stanford.edu/group/peruanos/informa/general.htm.
  5. Ayacucho, www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/latinamerica/south/sites/ayacucho.html.
  6. Chilca Valley, www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/south_america/chilca.html.
  7. Norte Chico civilization, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norte_Chico_civilization; Caral, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caral.
  8. James Q. Jacobs, Early monumental architecture on the Peruvian coast: evidence of socio-political organization and the variation in its interpretation, 2000, www.jqjacobs.net/andes/coast.html. 
  9. Michael E. Moseley, The Incas and their Ancestors: The archaeology of Peru, London: Thames & Hudson, 2001, p. 119.
  10. Early monumental architecture on the Peruvian coast; El Paraiso, www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/south_america/elparaiso.html.
  11. www.jqjacobs.net/andes/coast.html.
  12. Early monumental architecture on the Peruvian coast.
  13. http://wiki.sumaqperu.com/es/images/3/30/Sechin_huaraz_1.
  14. www.nazcamystery.com/casma_sechin.htm.
  15. Sechin Bajo, the oldest archeological site of the New World, http://www.granpaititi.com/index.php?id=147&lang=en.
  16. Chavín culture, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chavín_culture; James Q. Jacobs, Understanding Chavín and the origins of Andean civilization, 2000, www.jqjacobs.net/andes/chavin.html; Chavin de Huantar, www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/south_america/chavin_de_huantar.html; Chavin de Huantar, www.unique-southamerica-travel-experience.com/chavin-de-huantar.html; Enrico Mattievich, Journey to the Mythological Inferno: America’s discovery by the ancient Greeks, Denver, CO: Rogem Press, 2010, pp. 68, 70.
  17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chav%C3%ADn_culture.
  18. www.latinamericanstudies.org/chavin/raimondi.gif.
  19. The Incas and their Ancestors, pp. 163, 168.
  20. www.arqueologiadelperu.com.ar/chavin2.htm.
  21. Moche, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moche.
  22. Carlos Fernández-Baca Tupayachi, El Otro Saqsaywamán: La historia no contada, Lima: DFBS, 2000, pp. 178-9.
  23. Chimu, www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/latinamerica/south/cultures/chimu.html.
  24. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Ancient Infrastructure: Remarkable roads, mines, walls, mounds, stone circles, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 1999, pp. 11-13; Rafael Larco Hoyle, Los Mochicas, Lima: Metrocolor, 2001, pp. 299-303, http://losmochicas.perucultural.org.pe/pdf/tl_298_301.pdf.
  25. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Ancient Structures: Remarkable pyramids, forts, towers, stone chambers, cities, complexes, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2001, pp. 109-10.
  26. Ancient Infrastructure, pp. 367-9; David Hatcher Childress, Lost Cities and Ancient Mysteries of South America, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited, 1986, pp. 340-1.
  27. Robert M. Schoch, with Robert Aquinas McNally, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders: The true origins of the pyramids from lost Egypt to ancient America, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2003, p. 114; W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts – bone, stone, metal artifacts, prints, high-technology, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2003, p. 40.
  28. Igor Witkowski, Axis of the World: The search for the oldest American civilization, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2008, p. 181.
  29. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Graphic artifacts I – coins, calendars, geoforms, maps, quipus, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2005, pp. 44-5; Dilwyn Jenkins, The Rough Guide to Peru, New York: Rough Guides, 5th ed., 2003, p. 204; Graham Hancock & Santha Faiia, Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the lost civilization, London: Michael Joseph, 1998, pp. 257-8.
  30. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahuachi.
  31. http://lastdaysoftheincas.com/wordpress/?attachment_id=237.
  32. Donald A. Proulx, Nasca puquios and aqueducts, http://people.umass.edu/proulx/online_pubs/Zurich_Puquios_revised_small.pdf; Erich Von Däniken, Arrival of the Gods: Revealing the alien landing sites of Nazca, Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element, 2000, pp. 66, 77-87.
  33. The Peruvian lost city of Pachacamac, www.nazcamystery.com/pachacamac.htm.
  34. Journey to the Mythological Inferno, p. 172.
  35. Wari culture, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wari_culture.
  36. William Sullivan, The Secret of the Incas: Myth, astronomy, and the war against time, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996, p. 219.
  37. The Rough Guide to Peru, p. 408; Kuelap, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuelap; Kuelap, www.arqueologiadelperu.com.ar/kuelap.htm.
  38. Great Zimbabwe National Monument, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Zimbabwe_National_Monument; David Hatcher Childress, Lost Cities and Ancient Mysteries of Africa & Arabia, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited, 1990, pp. 343-9; Graeme R. Kearsley, Asian Origins of African Culture: Asian migrations through Africa to the Americas, London: Yelsraek Publishing, 2010, pp. 255-372, 744-51.
  39. http://images.cdn.fotopedia.com/flickr-1691408199-image.jpg.
  40. Robert M. Schoch, The mystery of Markawasi, 2005, http://circulartimes.org/Mystery%20of%20Markawasi.htm; Ancient Infrastructure, pp. 115-16; Lost Cities and Ancient Mysteries of South America, pp. 338-9; Marcahuasi: the most important of all sacred mountains?, 2009, www.peru-vacation-packages.com/2009/06/marcahuasi-most-important-of-all-sacred.html.
  41. Markahuasi stone forest, www.pbase.com/locozodiac/locozodiac_120.

3. Transoceanic contacts

As shown in The Ancient Americas, there is strong evidence that voyages to North, Central and South America have been taking place from many parts of the world for countless thousands of years. Orthodox historians and archaeologists, however, continue to deny the evidence for transoceanic trade and cultural diffusion. They tend to vigorously defend their own specialized fields against ‘interference’ from outsiders, and generally feel no incentive, or lack the knowledge, to recognize common cultural traits. Where similarities are acknowledged, they are automatically attributed to ‘independent invention’.

Mainstream archaeologists even have difficulty accepting that there were contacts between Central and South America! The Olmecs of Mesoamerica, who thrived from 1200 to 400 BC, seem to have been influenced by many different cultures, including Nubia and China.1 They also appear to have had contact with the Chavín culture of northern Peru. The Olmecs believed that the jaguar confers superiority on warriors; its image is very common and often takes the form of a jaguar-man. A jaguar cult and the jaguar-man also appear in the Chavín culture. Chavín de Huántar was not only a cultural and ceremonial centre, but also a key commercial centre, where several trade routes met. The Olmecs may have introduced maize to Peru during the early Chavín period, in exchange for coca leaves.2

There is considerable evidence that coastal civilizations of northern Peru traded with the Maya of Central America. The Incas had a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and, like many other cultures, conveyed information about the precession of the equinoxes in their mythology. William Sullivan argues that there are too many precise correspondences between Mayan and Andean astronomical ideas to be explained away by coincidence.3 By 1800 BC trade was taking place with Ecuador as Spondylus shells from that country have been found in graves at ancient Peruvian sites such as La Galgada. Before the conquest, Pizarro’s expeditionary force recorded that they met large, loaded, trading seagoing rafts off Ecuador, far from the sight of land.4

Noting that long-distance sea traders from the Middle East, China, Japan and India were operating from at least the 5th millennium BC, Graeme Kearsley points to extensive textural, iconographic and artefactual evidence showing that cultural transfer took place from the Middle East and Asia across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the Americas. Pre-Columbian South America underwent abrupt cultural and technological advances that were apparently not the result of internal developments. He belives it is no accident that all of the most important advances took place on the Pacific coast of South America.5

He argues that for hunter-gatherers to turn into monument builders in one step is unparalleled, and suggests that the ‘first’ remarkable Peruvian monuments (e.g. El Paraíso, Sechin Alto) were initiated by mariners familiar with the traditions of West Asia and later India. Excavations have revealed that rooms at El Paraíso were filled after a certain period and that new structures were then built on the elevated platform – a practice also found in the Middle East.6

The sudden introduction of the heddle loom and associated weaving techniques in South America in the first half of the 1st millennium BC has no developmental sequences leading up to it. Other textile arts such as painted textiles and batik (a wax-resist dyeing technique) appear in the same unaccountable way. The batik technique is most famously associated with Indonesia, where it appeared in the same timeframe as in Peru. Kearsley concludes that this points to ‘contact between India and South America, via Indonesia, to the coastal region of Peru and the Andean highlands of South America’. He also suggests that the sudden appearance of ceramics at coastal sites such as Sechin Alto around 1800 BC and the sudden rise of widespread canal building and irrigation schemes were connected with outside influences.7

The cruelties and torture inflicted on prisoners by the Assyrians are emulated by the Moche from the 1st millennium BC to the 1st millennium AD. Kearsley writes:

The ‘pegging-out’ of prisoners, illustrated in flaying scenes, are reflected in many Moche ceramic illustrations along with prisoners racked or tied to frames among other recognisable tortures and executions that were such a feature of the Pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas. Trophy heads and the accumulation of these severed heads in Assyria reflect the Aztec tzompalli, or skull racks that appear to be so similar to those in Ancient Mexico and beyond in South America that it would indeed appear that this part of the Peruvian Coast was heavily influenced from the Ancient Near East if not directly from Assyria itself.8


Fig. 3.1 From the 3rd millennium BC onwards, early Andean ceremonial sites, with their curved walls, are similar in design to towns in the ancient Middle East. Left: Layout of Warka, Sumeria (Iraq). Right: La Galgada, Peru.9

Fig. 3.2 Pottery shards from the Valdivian culture of Ecuador (left) show striking stylistic similarities with pottery produced by the Jomon culture of Japan (right), c. 600 BC.10

Pre-Columbian South American metallurgy was remarkably sophisticated, and some of the developments may reflect Asian influences. The Chavín culture, for example, was characterized by sudden metallurgical advances such as gold technology, soldering, sweat welding, silver-gold alloys, and embossing (repoussé).

The high quality of Chavin ornamentation and craftsmanship is so sophisticated and so profuse and complex in design that it has been proposed that it is the product of specialist full-time artisans. This would in fact follow the examples found in both Ancient Assyria in the same time band of the first half of the first millennium B.C. and of India later in that millennium.11

Pre-Columbian civilizations, including the Chavín and Moche cultures, produced extremely beautiful gilded objects. Even older fragments of gilded copper foil, dating back to perhaps 1400 BC, have been found at Mina Perdida, south of Lima, Peru; both the copper and gold had been beaten into thin sheets and then united by an unidentified adhesive, probably aided by the application of heat. The oldest artefacts of cold-hammered native gold so far found are beads discovered at Jiskairumoko in the Lake Titicaca basin, dated to around 2000 BC.12

Fig. 3.3 Copper foil fragment with adhering piece of gold foil found at Mina Perdida.

Pre-Columbian metal workers were familiar with platinum, and were able to amalgamate platinum and mercury to make platinum-plated jewellery. The Incas knew how to make bronze; some bronze artefacts recovered from Machu Picchu even contained 18% bismuth in addition to tin. Many South American gold objects were found to be made from alloys containing considerable copper and were therefore much less precious than originally imagined. Modern metallurgists have speculated that South American gilders might have used mercury to bond gold to copper. Gold, too, may have been used as a sort of solder. A copper arrowhead found in Ecuador was found to have been soldered with silver or a silver-copper alloy. A prehistoric copper rattle found at Supe on the Peruvian coast consisted of two bell-shaped halves expertly welded together in a virtually seamless joint.13

Gold ornaments of microscopic dimensions have been found in pre-Columbian Ecuador. Some tiny particles of gold, when viewed through a magnifying glass, are found to be beautifully wrought beads. Many are elaborately engraved or chased, others are built up of several almost invisible pieces welded or soldered together, and all are pierced. It’s hard to see how such minute objects, many times smaller than the head of a pin, could have been produced without the help of a lens. Crude lenses can be made from crystal. The existence of superbly carved crystal skulls shows that pre-Columbian cultures in South America and Mesoamerica knew how to carve rock crystal – but we do not know what techniques they used to do this so expertly.14

Enrico Mattievich argues that various Greek and Roman myths reflect a knowledge of South America and its ancient cultures.15 In addition to their other layers of meaning, myths and legends about heroes such as Heracles and Odysseus travelling to the underworld (Hades or Tartarus), located beyond the western ocean or below the earth, contain geographical details that could be derived from journeys to the Andean highlands along the Amazon, and also the Marañón and Ucayali rivers from whose confluence it springs. These rivers correspond to the Styx (or Stige) or Acheron of Greek mythology. Among many other parallels, the head of the Greek Gorgon (Medusa), who was often depicted with fangs, claws and hair of snakes, bears a strong resemblance to the head portrayed on either side of the Lanzón, a 4.5-m-tall statue found in a cruciform chamber in the main temple at Chavín de Huántar. Other images at Chavín de Huántar resemble Cerberus, the hound that guarded Hades.16


Fig. 3.4 Left: The Lanzón, Chavín de Huántar. Right: The head on the opposite side of the statue.

Fig. 3.5 Gorgon from Syracuse (Sicily), 6th century BC. The facial features and
the hair (with its six spirals) are very similar to those on the Lanzón.

Trepanation is a highly skilled surgical operation that involves making holes in the skull – for medical or ritual reasons. Prehistoric trepanned skulls have been found in the Americas, Europe, North Africa, the Canary Islands, Australia and the western Pacific. Its widespread practice may be the result of diffusion rather than independent invention. The most primitive procedure involved scraping away the bone with sharp flakes of obsidian or flint. Another technique was to drill a circle of small holes in the skull, taking care not to puncture the membranes enclosing the brain; the ridges between the holes were then cut out and the circular piece of bone removed. In Peru a more hazardous procedure was sometimes used; rectangular pieces of skull were removed by making four straight incisions with metal saws. The same procedure was also used in the Middle East. Inca surgeons were successful 80% of the time, whereas trepanation in the early 20th century succeeded only 20% of the time. Trepanation in South America is currently thought to have begun about 400 BC. The oldest trepanned skull so far found comes from Spain and has been dated to 10,000 BP – totally at odds with the traditional image of brutish cavemen.17

Fig. 3.6 A trepanned skull from Inca Peru.18

Kearsley argues that the caste system imposed from the earliest times in Peru was imported from the ancient Near and Middle East, Iran, and India in particular.19 Several researchers have highlighted the close similarities between the social structures among the Incas and those found in ancient India, Indonesia and Melanesia. H.P. Blavatsky writes as follows about the parallels between the Incas and the Indian Brahmans.

The Incas, judged by their exclusive privileges, power, and ‘infallibility,’ are the antipodal counterpart of the Brahmanical caste of India. Like the latter, the Incas claimed direct descent from Deity, which, as in the case of the Suryavansha dynasty of India, was the Sun. According to the sole but general tradition, there was a time when the whole of the population of the now New World was broken up into independent, warring, and barbarian tribes. At last, the ‘Highest’ deity – the Sun – took pity upon them, and, in order to rescue the people from ignorance, sent down upon earth, to teach them, his two children Manco Capac and his sister and wife, Mama Oella Huaca – the counterparts, again, of the Egyptian Osiris, and his sister and wife, Isis, as well as of the several Hindu gods and demi-gods and their wives. ... It is from this celestial pair that the Incas claimed their descent; and yet, they were utterly ignorant of the people who built the stupendous and now ruined cities which cover the whole area of their empire ... As the direct descendants of the Sun, they were exclusively the high priests of the state religion, and at the same time emperors and the highest statesmen in the land; in virtue of which, they, again like the Brahmans, arrogated to themselves a divine superiority over the ordinary mortals, thus founding like the ‘twice-born’ [Brahmans] an exclusive and aristocratic caste – the Inca race. Considered as the son of the Sun, every reigning Inca was the high priest, the oracle, chief captain in war, and absolute sovereign ... To his command the blindest obedience was exacted; his person was sacred; and he was the object of divine honours. The highest officers of the land could not appear shod in his presence; this mark of respect pointing again to an Oriental origin; while the custom of boring the ears of the youths of royal blood and inserting in them golden rings ‘which were increased in size as they advanced in rank, until the distention of the cartilage became a positive deformity,’ suggests a strange resemblance between the sculptured portraits of many of them that we find in the more modern ruins, and the images of Buddha and of some Hindu deities, not to mention our contemporary dandies of Siam, Burma, and Southern India. In that, once more like in India, in the palmy days of the Brahmin power, no one had the right to either receive an education or study religion except the young men of the privileged Inca caste. And, when the reigning Inca died, or as it was termed, ‘was called home to the mansion of his father,’ a very large number of his attendants and his wives were made to die with him, during the ceremony of his obsequies, just as we find in the old annals of Rajasthan, and down to the but just abolished custom of Suttee [sati]. ... What we want to learn is, how came these nations, so antipodal to each other as India, Egypt, and America, to offer such extraordinary points of resemblance, not only in their general religious, political, and social views, but sometimes in the minutest details.20

Commenting on long-eared statues of the Buddha, Blavatsky writes: ‘The unnaturally large ears symbolize the omniscience of wisdom, and were meant as a reminder of the power of Him who knows and hears all, and whose benevolent love and attention for all creatures nothing can escape.’21 The actual physical elongation of the ears as a mark of social rank and power in many different cultures may have arisen after the original purely symbolic meaning had faded.

The ruling caste of the Inca peoples, the Ayar Incas, parallels the Aryan-Brahman caste of ancient India. ‘Ayar’ appears to be a variant of ‘Aryan’, which is derived from ‘arya’, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘worthy, holy, noble’. The name of the Hindu fire god, Agni, is related to ‘ignis’, the original ancient root for fire, and is similar to Inti, the Ayar Inca term for the sun. ‘Agnikayana’ refers to the ancient Vedic fire altar rituals, designed to ensure that the sun remained in the sky. Among the Incas, a possibly related word ‘intihuatana’ means ‘hitching place of the sun’, and refers to a shaped stone, a ‘rock phallic pillar’, found at sacred places such as Machu Picchu, Pisac and Qenko.22 According to Cuzco legend, the Inca ruler would ritually tie the sun to the post on the day of the winter solstice to bring it back in the opposite direction.


Fig. 3.7 The Hindu god Shiva was often depicted with a lunar crescent on his topknot (left).
Lunar crescents are also seen on Inca hats (right).23

From the centre of Inca Cuzco, 41 lines, or ceques, radiated outward: some were true pathways for ceremonial purposes (including human sacrifices in times of drought); some were boundary lines defining where specific kinship groups lived; and others were sight lines with astronomical and calendric functions. Situated along them are about 328 huacas (wakas) or shrines, including springs, fountains, bridges, houses, hills, caves, and legendary tombs and battlefields. The hub or ‘navel’ of the ceque system was a stone structure, possibly a gold-covered platform and/or pillar (long since destroyed), called the ushnu, located in the main city square. It is interesting to note that the topknot of the Buddha, representing the crown chakra and its irradiance, was called the ushnisha. Cuzco’s ceques were divided into four unequal pie-shaped slices – a practice also found in Melanesia. Other features found in both Melanesia and Peru include trepanation, cranial deformation, panpipes and bark trumpets, star clubs and other weapons, along with many parallels in myths and legends.24

It is not known how the practice of cranial deformation – the artificial deformation of infants’ heads – originated or spread. It was also practised by the Olmecs, the Maya, the Aztecs, the Flathead Indians, the ancient Egyptians, the Easter Islanders, the Cro-Magnon Aurignacian culture, the Basques, the Indians of the Antilles, and the ancient Chinese. The practice was used to denote elite status, to emphasize ethnic differences, or for religious, magical or aesthetic purposes.

Fig. 3.8 Inca skull with cranial deformation.25

The Inca ruler Tupac Yupanqui (1471-1493) claimed to have sailed with a fleet across the Pacific to the East Indies on a round trip – the sort of voyage the Ming Chinese were making in the 15th century. At the time of the conquest in 1532, the Spaniards reported that Inca Atahualpa wore silk tunics, which may point to a Chinese connection. The Spaniards found vast orchards of lemons and pomegranates growing in Peru – fruits that are native to Asia. The sweet potato, which is native to South America, is called kumar in the Quechua language of Peru and Ecuador, and kumara in the Maori language of Mangareva, Paumotu, Easter Island and Rarotonga. It seems that either South Americans brought it to Polynesia or Polynesians made a two-way trip to South America.26

The totora-reed boats used on Lake Titicaca by the Aymara Indians are virtually identical to the boats with high curving prows and sterns made of bundles of papyrus reeds used on the Nile from predynastic times. Boats of that design are still used in the Euphrates delta of Iraq, on Lake Chad in the southern Sahara, and in the coastal waters around the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. They were used in Mexico, including the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez, until the mid-20th century. Tusk-shaped totora-reed boats were likewise used by the Easter Islanders.27

The lighter-skinned people associated with the Chachapoyas and Paracas cultures were mentioned in section 2. There are in fact numerous legends and eye-witness reports of white Indians in South America. They have been sighted in the past all over central and western South America, especially in remote areas; in the west they tended to be shy and elusive, while in the northeast they responded to intruders with blow-pipes and bows.28 Chronicler Cieza de León records that long before the rise of the Incas, the Colloans attacked and exterminated a white, bearded race on an island in Lake Titicaca.29 Portrayals of white and bearded figures of various kinds (Mongoloid Amerindians have essentially no facial hair) with European-like features are quite common in Peru and Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors were amazed that members of the Inca ruling elite often had whiter skin than the Spaniards.30

Fig. 3.9 Peruvian Inca mummy (14th-15th century) with natural blonde hair, characteristic of the fair, red and light-brown hair found among many South American cultures in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Northern Chile. The fine hair, skin colour and height are typically Caucasian.31

Viracocha (sometimes called Con-Tiki Viracocha), the feathered serpent-god and culture-bearer of the Incas – and in some cases his men – was often described as white skinned and bearded, and sometimes as wearing long white robes and sandals, and carrying a staff. He is said to have come either from the east, or to have appeared ‘from nowhere’ on an island in Lake Titicaca.32 He was regarded as a kind, peace-loving god, who came to the Andes to restore civilization after the flood. In Mesoamerica, culture-bringers resembling and corresponding to Viracocha include Kukulkan, Votan, and Quetzalcoatl. Some researchers contend that such figures are rooted in real persons, and that their description may point to visitors from the Mediterranean.33 Harold Wilkins thought these culture-heroes, like many of the white Indian races, were of Atlantean origin.34


  1. The Ancient Americas, section 5, https://davidpratt.info.
  2. Robert M. Schoch, with Robert Aquinas McNally, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders: The true origins of the pyramids from lost Egypt to ancient America, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2003, pp. 158-9; Andrew Collins, Gateway to Atlantis: The search for the source of a lost civilisation, London: Headline, 2000, pp. 158-62.
  3. William Sullivan, The Secret of the Incas: Myth, astronomy, and the war against time, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996, pp. 144, 277.
  4. Graeme R. Kearsley, Inca Origins: Asian influences in early South America in myth, migration and history, London: Yelsraek Publishing, 2003, pp. 176, 810.
  5. Ibid., pp. 321, 808-9.
  6. Ibid., pp. 171, 173, 176-7.
  7. Ibid., pp. 191, 224-5.
  8. Ibid., p. 810.
  9. Ibid., p. 161; La Galgada, www.arqueologiadelperu.com.ar/lagalgada.htm.
  10. Edward Moreno, Chris You Were Late! – Part 2, www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2010/2/5/3277.
  11. Inca Origins, p. 231.
  12. Mark Rose, ‘Early Andean metalworking’, Archaeology, v. 52, no. 1, 1999, www.archaeology.org/9901/newsbriefs/andean.html; M. Aldenderfer, N.M. Craig, R.J. Speakman, & R. Popelka-Filcoff, ‘Four-thousand-year-old gold artifacts from the Lake Titicaca basin, southern Peru’, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, v. 105, no. 13, 2008, pp. 5002-5, www.pnas.org/content/105/13/5002.full.
  13. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts – bone, stone, metal artifacts, prints, high-technology, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2003, pp. 247-54.
  14. Ibid., pp. 258-60; David Hatcher Childress, Technology of the Gods: The incredible sciences of the ancients, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited, 2000, pp. 27-30.
  15. Enrico Mattievich, Journey to the Mythological Inferno: America’s discovery by the ancient Greeks, Denver, CO: Rogem Press, 2010.
  16. Ibid., pp. 62-70.
  17. Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts, pp. 31-4; Peter James & Nick Thorpe, Ancient Inventions, New York: Ballantine Books, 1994, pp. 24-33; Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, p. 116; Richard Rudgley, Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age, London: Century, 1988, pp. 126-37.
  18. http://lastdaysoftheincas.com/wordpress/?p=128.
  19. Inca Origins, p. 190.
  20. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House (TPH), 1950-91, 2:306-8.
  21. H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1977 (1888), 2:339.
  22. Inca Origins, pp. 105, 350-1, 517, 605-7.
  23. www.exoticindiaart.com/product/EY48; Inca Origins, p. 178.
  24. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Graphic artifacts I – coins, calendars, geoforms, maps, quipus, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2005, pp. 33-9; Inca Origins, pp. 342-5.
  25. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Potosi_D%C3%A9cembre_2007_-_La_M oneda_2.jpg.
  26. The Ancient Americas, section 4.
  27. Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, pp. 115-16, 178-9.
  28. Harold T. Wilkins, Secret Cities of Old South America, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1998 (1952), pp. 87-94, 104-5, 112, 150, 166, 228, 232, 237-46, 253-5; Harold T. Wilkins, Mysteries of Ancient South America, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2005 (1947), pp. 47-53, 58-60, 64-7, 94-5, 116-17, 120-1; Col. P.H. Fawcett, Exploration Fawcett, London: Century, 1988 (1953), pp. 67, 83, 115, 245-6, 270.
  29. Secret Cities of Old South America, pp. 88, 150.
  30. Igor Witkowski, Axis of the World: The search for the oldest American civilization, Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2008, p. 165.
  31. Inca Origins, p. 401.
  32. Mysteries of Ancient South America, pp. 110-11.
  33. Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, pp. 117-23.
  34. Secret Cities of Old South America, pp. 93-8.

4. The Nazca lines

The Nazca plain, some 400 km south of Lima, is covered with dozens of drawings of creatures and plants, several thousand straight lines, and hundreds of geometrical figures such as trapezoids and zigzags.1 The Nazca lines can only be fully appreciated from the air; they were rediscovered by a pilot in 1927. On the Pampa de San José the geoglyphs cover a total area of over 500 sq km; tourist flights concentrate on a small number of creature drawings in this area. But geoglyphs also adorn surrounding valleys and mountaintops. There is an incredible profusion of lines and glyphs, of varying sizes and quality, some superimposed on older ones, as if they were made by different groups of people over a long period of time, without any overall plan.

Fig. 4.1 The spider (46 m long). Because of the extended leg that ends with what might be a sex organ, some researchers believe it represents a Ricinulei spider, found only in remote parts of the Amazon jungle; they measure 5 to 10 mm in length, and the male reproductive organ is normally only visible with the aid of a microscope.


Fig. 4.2 Above: Photo and diagram of the roughly-made 9-fingered monkey (80 m body and 30 m tail), with its prehensile tail curling in the wrong direction. Part of a geometric design is superimposed on the monkey. Below: One of the monkey’s hands as seen from the ground.2

Fig. 4.3 Straight lines.

Most of the lines were made by removing the surface layer of darker, iron-oxide coated pebbles (up to a depth of 30 cm), exposing the lighter, yellowish earth beneath. (Since the 1950s motorbikes and cars have left their ugly tyre marks all over the ground in the form of yellowish-white lines.) In some cases, stones were piled up along the edges of the lines. In others, stones were removed from the edges so that the figures stood out in high relief. The lines persist due to the extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region. Other giant geoglyphs can be found on cliffs and slopes elsewhere in the coastal region of Peru, and also in Chile, Bolivia, the United States, Egypt and Malta, but those at Nazca are the most impressive. It is the only place where multiple lines many kilometres long are found.

Fig. 4.4 A cleared path.

In addition to the stylized drawings of birds and animals, many of which are not native to the area, there are representations of flowers and plants. Nearly all the biomorphic figures are located on about 5% of the northwest corner of the pampa and are tiny by comparison with the straight lines. They all consist of a single, continuous line that never crosses itself, except for three killer whales (consisting of one line on both the outside and inside) and two solid infilled llamas (representing dark cloud patterns in the Milky Way). In addition, there are a number of strange figures, such as a being with two enormous hands, one of which has only four fingers. There are also drawings of man-made objects. The few human figures, up to 40 m high, are situated on hillsides and tend to be crudely made.

Fig. 4.5 Condor (134 m long).

Fig. 4.6 The alcatraz / phoenix / flamingo, with its zigzag neck and long beak, is over 610 m long.

Fig. 4.7 Figure interpreted as needle-and-thread or a fishing rod, about half a mile long.

Fig. 4.8 Hands with nine fingers. The fingers are about 9 m long.

Fig. 4.9 The crudely made ‘astronaut’ or ‘owl man’ (32 m long).3


Fig. 4.10 The ‘giant of Cerro Unitas’ or ‘robot’, 121 m high, on a hillside in the Atacama desert, Chile.4 It is sometimes said to be a leader with a stylized feather headdress and feline mask. Rays, projections, halos etc. around a head are sometimes interpreted as a sign that the figure is an extraterrestrial. A more spiritual interpretation is of course possible.

Fig. 4.11 This giant picture, 65 m long, situated in the south of the Nazca plateau, was discovered in 2006. It appears to be an animal with horns, somewhat resembling a lobster. Vehicles have destroyed part of the glyph.5

There are over 2000 narrow, dead-straight lines, up to 23 km long, running in all directions, and often crisscrossing one another. Many lines pass over crevices and hill summits, and some run across the animal figures. There are about 62 ‘ray centres’ – natural hills, artificial earth mounds, or rock cairns – where some of the straight lines converge. There are also wider tracks or ‘runways’, from 30 to 110 m wide and up to 1.4 km long. The runways are often superimposed on zigzags and other geometrical forms, though in some cases a zigzag pattern runs over a runway. There are also runways that run over other runways.

Fig. 4.12 Nazca lines (not to be confused with wavy erosion patterns) seen from the SPOT satellite.6

Fig. 4.13 Satellite picture of an area containing lines.7

Fig. 4.14 Two 50-m-wide runways and 21 narrower lines converge.8 (Courtesy of Erich von Däniken)

Fig. 4.15 A 62-metre-wide trail ascends a small hill then spreads out from the summit in several narrower lines. The middle of these five narrower lines carries on for 10 km through the plain.9 (Courtesy of Erich von Däniken)

Geometric figures include trapezoids, triangles, spirals and zigzags. There are about 300 trapezoidal areas and triangular spaces. Trapezoidal figures measure about 40 by 400 metres on average, with the largest measuring 92 by 869 m.

Fig. 4.16 Trapezoid.

Fig. 4.17 Trapezoids and trails on the Pampa de Jumana.10 (Courtesy of Erich von Däniken)

Fig. 4.18 A trapezoid superimposed on a figure.11

Fig. 4.19 Lines and trapezoid.

Fig. 4.20 The ‘mandala’ consists of three interconnected glyphs, carved with great precision on a remote plateau in the Palpa mountains (14º 38.65' S, 75º 10.27' W), not far from Nazca. The central circle, about 55 m in diameter, is enclosed by a square of the same width and by a second, slightly larger square, tilted diagonally with respect to the first. Within the circle are several smaller circles, and in the middle are two superimposed rectangles, each divided into eight squares (click here for a sketch). The various circles are marked by small holes, sticks, or stones. A geological cleft runs through the middle of pattern. On either side of the main circle is a smaller set of concentric circles (only one set can be seen in the photo). Straight lines join various parts of the geometrical patterns.12


It is generally believed that siting stakes and measuring rods and cords were sufficient to make the lines and figures on the Nazca plain. Remains of stakes have been found in the desert surface, and along some lines at roughly one-mile intervals. Maria Reiche (the famous Nazca researcher who died in 1998) thought that the Nazca artists first drew a sketch in an area about 2 m square; some sketches are still visible near some of the larger figures. They then faced the task of transposing the small-scale drawing onto a giant area. One suggestion is that hot-air balloons constructed from animal skins or textiles were employed as sighting platforms, but there is no hard evidence for this.1 Surveying techniques involving accurate measurement of angles could have been used, but this is rejected by orthodox archaeologists because they presume the lines were made by the Nazca culture, which is not known to have had such a capability.

Making the larger, more accurate figures, the broad, kilometres-long ‘runways’ and trapezoids, and the straight lines that traverse hilltops and crevices would have posed the greatest challenge. It is estimated that about 10,000 cubic metres of stones had to be carried away by the makers of the glyphs. The amount was probably far greater, since several mountain summits in the region had to be levelled as well.2

In 1977 an archaeologist and 30 young Indians, using three wooden stakes and strings, managed in less than three days to scratch a narrow, 150-m-long straight line in the pampa surface. In 1981 volunteers from Earthwatch made a line with a spiral at the end. They tried to make the first curve of the spiral by simply laying out strings by eye. The result was a small, imperfect circle roughly 3 m in diameter.3 In 1982, a team of six successfully recreated the 440-foot-long condor (fig. 4.5) in a field in Kentucky, USA. They drew a centre line on a small drawing of the figure, and measured the perpendicular distances from the line to different points on the figure. They then created a centre line on the ground and plotted key points on the figure by scaling up the measurements on the drawing. They took nine hours to plot and stake 165 points and connect them with over a mile of twine, using white lime to draw the lines.4

Fig. 4.21 This roughly 60-m-wide, 700-m-long runway, superimposed on zigzags, extends over several mountain summits, which first had to be levelled.5 (Courtesy of Erich von Däniken)


The Nazca lines are usually said to have been made by the Nazca culture between about 200 and 700 AD. Some researchers believe the earliest may date from 500 BC. According to local tradition, the lines were made by the ‘viracochas’. Because some geometric designs are superimposed on the animal drawings, it is sometimes claimed that all the geometric designs were made after the animal drawings, but there is no compelling evidence to support this.

There are Nazca ceramics showing similar designs to those on the desert surface, including spiders, lizards, hummingbirds and whales. However, the similarities are generally rather tenuous and far from exact. Even if we assume that the similarities were intentional, it would not automatically prove that the Nazcans made those particular glyphs, let alone all of them. It could also indicate that they had merely viewed them (if not from the air then from nearby hilltops), or worked out their shape from the lines on the ground, or that they had preserved traditions of figures that had been made at an earlier time.


Fig. 4.22 Top: Killer whale depicted on a Nazca ceramic.1 Bottom: A killer whale glyph and a fish/whale glyph.

Fig. 4.23 Nazca bowl with drawings of spiders.2


Fig. 4.24 The ‘man with a hat’ (left), 20 m high, is located at the bottom of a slope. It bears a reasonable resemblance to a Paracas iconographic figure (right).3 Does this crude glyph on a hillside illustrate the limited glyph-making skills of the Nazca or preceding Paracas culture?

Pottery remains left at the lines prove only that the Nazcan people had visited them, over a period of hundreds of years. One wooden stake found in the middle of a pile of stones has been carbon-dated to about 525 AD. This does not prove that most of the lines were constructed in the same period. Once desert stones have been moved, lichen, moulds and cyanobacteria develop below them, and this organic material can be carbon-dated. Tests on nine stones collected from the edge of a Nazca line or runway yielded ages of between 190 BC and 600 AD. However, it is impossible to be sure that these stones had really been removed by the original line makers and had never been touched since.

In short, it cannot be ruled out some of the geoglyphs at Nazca are far older than currently believed, and have been restored and added to by successive cultures over thousands of years.


It is widely thought that many of the Nazca lines and figures were used for ritual and ceremonial purposes, and were designed to be seen by gods in the sky. One theory is that they were connected with the worship of mountain deities associated with water and fertility. Sufficient rainfall in the mountains was, after all, critical to the Nazcan economy and agriculture. According to this theory, the lines were primarily used as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be worshipped, and the figures represent animals and objects meant to invoke their assistance. The ray centres where several line converge are rather small and are not suitable for large gatherings, but that does not apply to the larger triangles and rectangles. The figures, too, could have been walked since they consist of a single line that never crosses. Certain sections of the geoglyph network are still used by local people for religious purposes. And in Bolivia there are similar radiating systems of pathways that are still used for ceremonial walking.

A recent study of several large trapezoidal structures at Nazca detected numerous magnetic anomalies within them, thought to be caused by changes in soil density at various depths. The researchers believe that the soil was compacted by people walking back and forth during prayer rituals, and that the anomalies represent older lines, not visible from the air.1

Pottery that appears to have been deliberately smashed has been found on the Nazca plain, possibly as an offering. Seashells – which were important offerings for rain – are often found in the mounds near the lines and at the ends of lines. There are no major temples anywhere near the lines and figures, but there are piles of stones that may be shrines. Studies have shown that geoglyphs such as triangles and trapezoids are sometimes associated with both surface and subterranean water flow.2

Johan Reinhard argues that most figures can be interpreted in terms of a fertility cult. For instance hummingbirds are associated with fertility and are regarded as messengers of mountain gods on the north coast of Peru. The appearance of many spiders and lizards is believed to be a sign of rain, and the tarantula is a symbol of fertility in southern Peru. The spider, dog and monkey are depicted at Nazca with their sexual parts extended. Foxes and dogs are associated with mountain deities. Killer whales and fish are associated with water and sea food. Some figures have been interpreted as plants, such as flowers, algae and trees. As for the hands with nine fingers, in Inca times it was widely believed that deformed people were children of lightning and thunder. Reinhard stresses that the geoglyphs could have served multiple ends.3 Other suggestions are that some figures could have been clan totems or magical charms for shamans, and some lines could have had astronomical functions.

Fig. 4.25 Hummingbird (93 m long).

Fig. 4.26 Dog.

Maria Reiche was a prominent proponent of the theory that at least some of the Nazca lines were intended to point to the places on the horizon where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set, and that some figures represented constellations. She proposed, for example, that the spider represents Orion, and the monkey Ursa Mayor. Astronomer Phyllis Pitluga believes that the spider was designed as an image of Orion as it set along the western horizon about 2000 years ago. Studies by Gerald Hawkins in 1973 and Anthony Aveni in 1982 identified only a few specific alignments to the positions of the sun, moon and certain stars. For instance, the beak of the hummingbird is intersected by a line that targets the point of sunrise at the December solstice.4

Fig. 4.27 The double pointed arrow in the diagram of the
bird indicates a possible astronomical alignment.5

Fig. 4.28 A jumbled mess.

The most striking feature of the Nazca lines is their seemingly chaotic profusion. John Neal has put forward a novel suggestion:

The whole desert of Nazca may be a testing ground and college of surveying. The conditions are ideal, and the apprentice surveyor would first have to interpret what was already there to its exact dimensions, then produce an accurate scale representation, perhaps on the square fathom plot beside the figure, and as a final test of his abilities, produce his own figure upon the desert floor, aligned to a calendrical date which he would have to calculate. ... One can imagine the compounded difficulties that would be encountered by a young surveyor, perhaps thrown in at the deep end by having to survey a degree of longitude in the mountains and jungles of Peru and Ecuador ...
    Possibly, students would not have to make a special journey to Nazca in order to take a course in surveying, it may have been on an educational route. A doctorate in the ancient world may have entailed a complete circumnavigation of the globe by land and by sea, whereby the student would learn and apply the techniques of navigation, astronomy and surveying at all conceivable latitudes. ... Something along these lines may explain the sheer number of lines where the land has only ever supported a relatively low level of population; the bulk of the people would be there temporarily, as students, strictly for reasons of geography.6


  1. W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Graphic artifacts I – coins, calendars, geoforms, maps, quipus, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2005, pp. 23-32; Erich Von Däniken, Arrival of the Gods: Revealing the alien landing sites of Nazca, Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element, 2000, www.daniken.com.
  2. www.nazcamystery.com/nazca_symbol_ape.htm.
  3. Ibid.
  4. http://img81.imageshack.us/i/tara6jy3.jpg.
  5. Heraldo Fuenets, Walking the line, www.viewzone.com/nazcatheories.html; www-hs.yamagata-u.ac.jp/en/institute/nasca/.
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_Lines.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Arrival of the Gods, p. 11, www.legendarytimes.com.
  9. Ibid., p. 14.
  10. Ibid., p. 10.
  11. A. Dukszto & J.M. Helfer, The Essential Guide: Secrets and Mysteries, the Nasca Lines, Lima: Ediciones del Hipocampoc S.A.C., 2001, p. 6.
  12. Walking the line; Arrival of the Gods, pp. 128-34; Nazca lines theories, http://old.world-mysteries.com/mpl_1_2.htm.


  1. Katherine Reece, Grounding the Nasca balloon, www.hallofmaat.com/modules.php?name=Articles&file=article&sid=96; W.R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts – bone, stone, metal artifacts, prints, high-technology, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2003, p. 287.
  2. Arrival of the Gods, pp. 102-3.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Joe Nickell, ‘The Nazca Lines revisited: creation of a full-sized duplicate’, The Skeptical Inquirer, 1983, www.onagocag.com/nazca.html.
  5. Arrival of the Gods, p. 43, www.legendarytimes.com.


  1. Michael E. Moseley, The Incas and their Ancestors: The archaeology of Peru, London: Thames & Hudson, 2001, p. 201.
  2. The Essential Guide: Secrets and Mysteries, the Nasca Lines, p. 14.
  3. Ibid., p. 21.


  1. Linda Geddes, Peruvians walked their prayers into the earth, 2009, www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126924.200-peruvians-walked-their-prayers-into-the-earth.html.
  2. Rachel Baar, The mystery of the Nazca Lines, www.dreamscape.com/morgana/nazca.htm; Don Proulx, The Nasca Lines Project (1996-2000), www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~proulx/Nasca_Lines_Project.html.
  3. Johan Reinhard, The Nazca Lines: A new perspective on their origin and meaning, Lima: Editorial Los Pinos, 2nd ed., 1986, pp. 42-54.
  4. Graham Hancock & Santha Faiia, Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the lost civilization, London: Michael Joseph, 1998, pp. 262-7.
  5. Corliss, Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts, p. 27.
  6. John Neal, All Done With Mirrors: An exploration of measure, proportion, ratio and number, The Secret Academy, 2000, p. 199.

Lost Civilizations of the Andes: Part 2

Lost Civilizations of the Andes: Contents