The Peruvian desert speaks….but what does it say? Some 200 miles south of the capital city of Lima, in the arid sands of the Pampas of Jumana, lie the giant petroglyphs of the Nazca Desert.
They have been there for several thousand years, scraped into the desert floor by the people of the ancient Nazca culture which flourished there centuries before the great Inca civilization, centuries before the devastating conquistadores of Francisco Pizzaro.
Michael Chriss, a member of the University of Arizona Department of Astronomy, will discuss the lines in a 3:30 p.m. lecture, “The Nazca Lines Mystery,” on Wednesday (June 13) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.
The lines and figures vary in complexity and size, with the largest up to 1,200 feet long. More than 70 are designs of animals, such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, and monkeys, or human figures. Other designs include plant-like shapes, such as trees and flowers.
Discovered by Western archeologists just 100 years ago, they have puzzled many scholars who have wondered about their origin and purpose. Indeed, in our generation of fanciful claims, some have even suggested that alien astronauts of long, long ago were involved.
But wiser heads have prevailed, and we have learned to have great respect for the abilities of those who lived in Peru so long ago.
Before his retirement, Chriss was an adjunct professor of astronomy at San Francisco State University and professor of astronomy and humanities at the College of San Mateo, where he had been teaching since 1966. He received his degrees in astronomy at the University of Arizona with further studies in history of art and science at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Oxford University. Upon retiring, Chriss moved to Tucson and became an associate lecturer in astronomy at the UA.
Written by Michael Chriss, Academy Village Volunteer