Hundreds of Ancient Nazca Lines Are Discovered In Peruvian Desert

According to press release of Yamagata University & IBM Japan, a research team led by Professor Masato Sakai from Cultural anthropology, Andean archaeology at Yamagata University discovered 143 new geoglyphs, which depict human forms and a broad variety of animals, including camelids, a group of mammals that includes llamas and alpacas; cats; fish; and snakes on the Nasca Pampa and surrounding area in Peru, South America. 

In a recent experimental collaboration with researchers from IBM that began in 2018, the team used a deep learning AI (artificial intelligence) developed by the company, running on a geospatial analytics system called the IBM PAIRS Geoscope. Working in partnership with IBM Thomas J Watson Research Centre, the team was able to use AI to scan aerial images and for what they called "biomorphic" shapes, or shapes that look similar to plants, animals, or humans.

The research team analysed high-resolution satellite imagery of the Nazca region, as well as conducting fieldwork, and identified two main types of geoglyphs. The oldest carvings (100 BCE to 100 CE), called Type B, tend to be less than 50 metres (165 feet) in length, while the slightly later effigies (100 CE to 300 CE), called Type A, span more than 50 metres, with the largest geoglyph discovered by the team measuring over 100 metres (330 feet).

The learning network – the IBM Watson Machine Learning Accelerator (WMLA) – sifted through huge volumes of drone and satellite imagery, to see if it could spot any hidden markings bearing a relation to the Nazca lines.

The system found a match: the faded outline of a small Type B humanoid-like figure, standing on two feet.

While the symbolic meaning of this strange and ancient character is not yet clear, the researchers point out that geoglyph was situated near a path, so it may have been one of the hypothesised waypost markers.

Part of the fascination with the Nazca Lines derives from the mystery of their function.

In his 1968 best seller, “Chariots of the Gods?,” Erich von Däniken, a Swiss author, suggested that they might have served as landing strips for aliens.

But archaeologists say they believe some of the etchings played a role in astronomical rituals. The Yamagata University team said that geometric shapes signified places where people held ceremonies that involved the breaking of ceramics, while the smaller, representational figures, which were found close to paths or slopes, are believed to have been travel markers, “designed to be looked at.”


143 New Geoglyphs Discovered on the Nasca Pampa and Surrounding Area Yamagata University Expands Use of IBM's AI Technology in an Aim to Understand Nasca Lines as a Whole, Press release by Yamagata University and IBM Japan

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