Artificial Intelligence Uncovers More Than 140 New Nazca Lines

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Since Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía Xesspe first discovered the Nazca lines in the 1920s, — giant images etched into the earth across Peruvian plateaus — they have been the subject of great speculation, with scientists searching for a logical explanation and others wondering if they are signals and symbols reaching out to alien life forms. The Nazca geoglyphs are so tremendous in their proportions (some of which measure up to 1,200 feet long) and so incomprehensible on the ground that their messages seem aimed at viewers who must have been airborne. And now, even more of these geoglyphs have been discovered in Peru, further baffling the already baffled investigators. While these latest finds are exciting, it seems that scientists are no closer to resolving the mystery of why they were created.

Unearthing Nazca: The Complete Story

About the New Nazca Geoglyphs

With the help of the latest technology, a treasure trove of Nazca lines, located on the Peruvian Nazca Pampa and surrounding areas, have been detected. Japanese research scientists reported that a joint feasibility study between Yamagata University and IBM Japan (2018–2019), utilizing IBM Power Systems servers and AI, has resulted in successful geoglyph recognition. The research team, led by Professor Masato Sakai (cultural anthropology, Andean archeology) at Yamagata University, Japan, identified new geoglyphs depicting people, animals, and other beings — but what remains unknown are the people — or beings —who created the Nazca lines.

Essentially, artificial intelligence has been able to glean enough information from ancient, faded, and incomplete geoglyphs to make visual sense of them. The New York Times reported that researchers combined onsite fieldwork with the most modern tools, including satellite photography, high-resolution 3-D imaging and, in one case, artificial intelligence.

University researchers noted that “the biomorphic geoglyphs are thought to date back to at least 100 BC to AD 300. Additionally, in a feasibility study carried out from 2018 to 2019 together with IBM Japan, the university discovered one new geoglyph by developing an AI model on the AI server IBM Power System AC922 configured with the deep learning platform IBM Watson Machine Learning Community Edition (formerly known as IBM PowerAI). This study explored the feasibility of AI’s potential to discover new lines and introduced the capability to process large volumes of data with AI, including high-resolution aerial photos, at high speeds. This represented the first glyph at the site discovered by an AI.”

Who Discovered the Nazca Lines?

Back in 2011, one of the newer geoglyphs discovered by the same team of Japanese scientists has been interpreted as a scene of decapitation. At about 4.2 meters long and 3.1 meters wide, this particular image is far smaller than other Nazca figures and is not easily noticeable from aerial surveys. This discovery confirmed what anthropologists already knew about the Nazca people — that they were known to collect “trophy heads.” 

In 2016, the same team of Japanese researchers discovered a 98-foot-long depiction of a creature with its tongue sticking out. The creature, which is deemed to be mythical in nature, sports a body marked with spots and numerous legs. Two years later, Peruvian archaeologists announced that they had, with the help of drone technology, discovered more than 50 new images in the same geographical region, and were able to map the landmarks in unprecedented detail.

This newest crop of Nazca line drawings includes a broad variety of animals, including camelids, a group of mammals that includes llamas and alpacas; cats; fish; and snakes.

The Mystery of the Nazca Lines

Anthropologists have good reason to suggest that the Nazca culture, which came onto the scene at around 100 B.C.E. and flourished from A.D. 1 to 700, were the artists behind the majority of the images at the Nazca lines location. Perhaps both the Chavin and Paracas cultures, which predated the Nazca by several centuries, may have also created some of the now-famous depictions. The Chavin inhabitants believed their priests communicated with various gods, and to honor them, they constructed huge sculptures. The Paracas people, who dated back to around 600 B.C.E., were known to be skilled in ceramics and mummification. Many mummies found in the Necropolis period featured elongated skulls, which is yet another mysterious aspect of the legacy of early Peruvian peoples.

To etch their gigantic images into the desert floor, the ancient artists were aided by the naturally occurring layer of iron oxide-coated pebbles, the color of deep rust. Designs were made by removing the top 12 to 15 inches of rock, in order to reveal lighter-colored sand below. Scientists believe those who made them likely began with small-scale models and carefully increased the models’ proportions to create larger designs.

Regardless of all that has been discovered, and perhaps the means of fashioning such magnificent depictions, scientists have yet to offer a plausible — or satisfactory — explanation as to why the images were made in the first place. Most are only visible from great heights above the ground’s surface. So the question remains as to who these etchings were meant for and whether they were ancient landing guides or messages to beings capable of automated flight.

NBC News reported that some researchers are now speculating the new Nazca lines “may have once been a labyrinth with a spiritual purpose.” The new insight is the result of the work of two archaeologists who used “a decidedly low-tech method to understand the sand drawing’s ancient secrets” by walking over the lines. However, this theory hardly explains many of the newer findings that are much, much smaller than the originals discovered in the 1920s, and so the mystery of the Nazca lines (and who created them) persists

Those who are far more broad-minded in their approach often argue that scientists are impeded by a materialistic philosophy that excludes the role of advanced civilizations. Perhaps early peoples were merely trying to communicate with visitors from elsewhere in the solar system — or beyond. Given the depictions of space travel and aliens in artifacts found across the globe and combined with the admissions of myriad worldwide government that UFOs are real, the ancient alien idea may not be so far-fetched.

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Chaco Canyon: The Key to Space Travel?

Today, Chaco Canyon is one of the best places in the U.S. to view the stars. Modern-day visitors can stargaze in the same place where ancient peoples once lived and thrived for hundreds of years, without light pollution interfering with the view.

The ability to see the stars so clearly from this 10-mile canyon also fascinated the Anasazi people long ago. An elaborate civilization flourished here between the years 850 and 1250 AD, consisting of numerous, multi-storied stone buildings that were carefully constructed in alignment with the cosmos and cardinal directions.

Although the canyon was inhabited for roughly 400 years by a highly intelligent and sophisticated tribe, its residents vanished without a trace. To this day, no burial grounds or grave yards have been discovered in this isolated canyon and researchers remain puzzled by the sudden disappearance of the ancient society.

Archeologists aren’t the only ones who are interested in this prehistoric civilization and its ancient observatories. NASA has been investigating Chaco Canyon for roughly 40 years. Why would a government agency that’s focused on space exploration have such a vested interest in these ancient ruins? Is it possible that they believe there’s a connection between Chaco Canyon and space travel?

What is Chaco Canyon?

Located in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Chaco Canyon is a shallow canyon that was once home to ancient Native American peoples about a thousand years ago. What remains of the civilization indicates a highly sophisticated infrastructure that appears to have been constructed in alignment with various celestial bodies. Enormous, elaborate stone buildings housing roughly 700 rooms and numerous underground ceremonial halls (known as “kivas”) are just some of the features that make Chaco Canyon such an extraordinary place.

In addition to its complex construction, one of the great mysteries of the Chaco Canyon society is the rationale for its establishment in the first place. The canyon resides in one of the harshest places on the planet — scorching 100+ degree summers and frigid winters with limited rainfall in between make it extremely impractical for settlement. Why did the ancient Native Americans decide to build such an elaborate community there?

Due to their aptitude for astronomy, it’s possible that the Chacoan people settled in the canyon for the sole purpose of reading the stars — and that’s potentially why NASA is so fascinated by this prehistoric civilization. Perhaps our ancestors were more advanced than once thought.

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