The Lines of Nazca and the Solar Factor

Searching for a Scientific Answer to an Ancient Enigma

Located in the desert approximately 400 to 450 kilometers southeast of Lima, the lines and geoglyphs are found spread over an area of some 450 square kilometers. The straight lines extend in virtually every direction, many radiating from common points or centers. Some of the lines are kilometers long. There are gigantic trapezoids, spirals, and other geometric shapes. In addition, there are representational geoglyphs on the desert floor depicting various animals and plants, including a monkey, spider, whale, dog, lizard, human (known colloquially as “the astronaut” or “owl man”), a pair of hands, a variety of birds (such as a humming bird, a condor, a heron [also known as a flamingo or pelican], and a parrot), and a tree—to name just a few of the more famous shapes among the many dozens that have been discovered. These representational geoglyphs vary in size from about 32 meters for the astronaut (constructed on the side of a hill), 45 to 46 meters for the hands and the body of the spider (not including the perpendicular extension of one leg), to 110 meters for the monkey, to over 200 meters for the partial parrot, and some 280 meters for the full length of the heron with its long, zigzag neck. The lines and geoglyphs were drawn on the desert floor by removing dark-colored, weathered stone from the surface (placing it in piles along the lines) to expose the lighter stone and silt underneath; thus the lines are very shallow surface features. The lines and figures are conventionally attributed to ancient peoples living in the region, and specifically to the Nazca people and their culture, and are dated broadly to circa 500 BCE to 800 CE (such attributions and dates remain circumstantial and questionable). They are best seen from above, either from a hilltop or from an aircraft. Indeed, one of the mysteries is why anyone would create such geoglyphs on the ground without having a good vantage point from which to view them.

Numerous theories have been put forth to explain the Nazca lines and geoglyphs. The “classical explanation”, espoused by the early pioneers of Nazca lines studies Paul Kosok (1896–1959; faculty member at Long Island University) and Maria Reiche (1903–1998; she devoted the majority of her life to studying and protecting the Nazca lines and geoglyphs) is that the lines are primarily of an astronomical nature, marking solstices, equinoxes, the risings and settings of various stars, and lunar movements. In this context, it has been suggested that various representational geoglyphs may be renditions of constellations in the sky. However, numerous studies have failed to convincingly demonstrate the “astronomy textbook” theory for the lines—there are so many lines in so many directions that even by chance some will correspond to astronomical phenomena while most apparently do not. And there is no clear link or agreement between particular Nazca figures and specific constellations.

Another popular theory for the lines and geoglyphs, especially in academic circles, is that they may be linked to underground water reserves, perhaps marking the locations of aquifers and wells. Or that they were used in various rituals and cult practices to propitiate the “sky gods” who could, if they so pleased, bring rain and fertility to the arid land. Or perhaps they served a social function, dividing territory and resources among different family groups, clans, and tribes. The diverse ideas (both academic and “alternative”) as to the purpose and meaning of the Nazca lines are legion, and I cannot cover all of them here. Instead, I will briefly recount some popular hypotheses that connect the lines and geoglyphs to the sky and “gods” in or from the sky. This will lead to a new view and interpretation of this longtime mystery.

In his book Chariots of the Gods? that (for better or worse) inspired or influenced so many researchers in the “alternative history” field, Erich von Däniken put forward what, in the public’s mind, perhaps remains the best-known theory concerning the Nazca lines:

“It is not yet possible to say with certainty whether the plain of Nazca was ever an airfield… What is wrong with the idea that the lines were laid out to say to the ‘gods’: ‘Land here! Everything has been prepared as you ordered’? The builders of the geometrical figures may have had no idea what they were doing. But perhaps they knew perfectly well what the ‘gods’ needed in order to land.” (von Däniken, Chariots of the Gods?, translated by Michael Heron, 1969, Bantam edition, 1970 reprint, p. 17)

The idea that the Nazca lines could be associated with aircraft (or spacecraft) was mentioned, even if only in jest, as early as 1947 by Kosok and Reiche: “When first viewed from the air, they [the Nazca lines] were nicknamed ‘prehistoric landing fields’ and jokingly compared with the so-called canals on Mars.” (Kosok with Reiche, Natural History, May 1947, p. 201).

A decade before von Däniken, George Hunt Williamson (1926–1986) explicitly suggested a UFO and ET (extraterrestrial) connection for the Nazca lines, building on what he claimed was an ancient South American legend, “We must make our creations great upon the land that the sky gods may view them.” (G. H. Williamson, Road in the Sky, Neville Spearman, 1959; 1969 reprint, p. 72, italics in the original). According to Williamson, the Nazca lines served as “beacons” for the “sky gods” (aliens in UFOs arriving from outer space) to direct them toward areas of underground electromagnetic concentrations, which served as refueling stations for ET spacecraft. Independent of Williamson’s UFO hypothesis, the idea that the Nazca lines and geoglyphs occur in an area marked by strong electromagnetic anomalies is highly suggestive, as we shall see at the end of this article.

Flying over the Nazca lines, I could not help but wonder if all of the current ideas as to their origins and meaning, both conventional and outlandish, are completely wrong. Sometimes new interpretations, and conceptual breakthroughs, come from looking at different evidence as well as reevaluating old evidence in a different light. With this in mind, my wife Katie (Catherine Ulissey) encouraged me to temporarily move my focus from the stunning lines and geoglyphs to the landforms that surround them and upon which they are inscribed.

The area where the lines and figures occur is a stony desert (generally known as the Nazca or Sechura Desert) that is one of the driest regions of the world (rainfall can be only a few millimeters per year; K. Hartsch, et al., Naturwissenschaften, 2009, vol. 96, 1213–1220), and this has been the case for thousands of years—as evidenced by the preservation of the fragile Nazca lines and geoglyphs. Yet this area contains many flat-cut plateaus, eroded valleys, and forms that appear to be dry rivers, streams, and rills. These are almost universally interpreted as erosional features due primarily to rain and flowing water at an earlier time period (supplemented by occasional flash floods, for instance under El Niño conditions) which, like the lines and geoglyphs, have been preserved by the subsequent hyper-arid environment. However, examining the local geomorphology closely, I have to question the standard “water interpretation.” Some of the lines and figures occur on plateaus, the edges of which appear sharp and jaggedly cut, with rill-like features extending from the top edges down into the lower elevations. To my eyes, the more I examined them, the more peculiar some of the features looked when interpreted as the result of water erosion and deposition. Ancient rains and water flow may have had some effect in shaping these geomorphological features, but there also seems to be something else going on as well. But what?

Katie’s immediate suggestion was that perhaps these geomorphological features are due to “electrical scarring.” This is the concept that some surface features on planets, such as valleys and craters, are not due to flowing water, meteor impacts, volcanoes, tectonic forces, or other “conventional” phenomena, but rather to extremely powerful electrical discharges that hit the surface of the planet (or other object, such as a moon or asteroid). In colloquial terms, one can think of huge thunderbolts or lightning strikes hitting a planet and gouging out craters, valleys, and other features. The concept that major geomorphological features could be the result of such electrical scarring has been championed by proponents of the Electric Universe and Plasma Cosmology schools of thought (see David B. Smith, The Open Astronomy Journal, 2011, vol. 4 (Supplement 2-M2), 165-179; David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill, Thunderbolts of the Gods, 2005, Mikamar Publishing). On Earth, it has been suggested that the Grand Canyon was originally formed by such electrical scarring and only secondarily serves as a river valley (Michael Goodspeed, with D. Talbott and W. Thornhill, “Is the Universe Electric?”, undated paper accessed from the Internet 12 April 2017). Possibly many other geomorphological features on Earth today were originally formed by electrical scarring.

This brings us back to the region of the Nazca lines and geoglyphs. Could this area have been originally shaped by electrical scarring? And if so, when, and under what circumstances?

Building on my earlier work regarding the cause and circumstances surrounding the end of the last ice age, circa 9700 BCE, the following scenario immediately came to mind: nearly 12,000 years ago the Nazca area was hit by a huge solar outburst that created the apparent electrical scarring features observed here today. As I have made the case elsewhere, the last ice age ended when our Sun, in an unstable and volatile state, erupted with a major solar outburst (or outbursts, including solar flares, coronal mass ejections, solar particle events, and related phenomena) that struck Earth. Some areas were hit by what would have been described by observers as huge “lightning bolts.” And in the sky strange plasma configurations caused by electrically charged particles interacting with our magnetosphere and atmosphere would have been seen—think of the northern and southern lights taking on distinct forms and viewed around the world, not just at high latitudes. These included human-like and animal-like shapes resembling stick-figure men, bird-headed men, waving hands, and cascading ring-like shapes. Dr. Anthony L. Peratt (Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico) has documented that such plasma configurations were recorded in ancient times around the world as petroglyphs (incised or carved images on rocks), and Katie and I have made the case that the Rongorongo tablets of Easter Island are also based on the plasma configurations seen in the sky at that remote time (see discussion in my book Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future, 2012).

Returning to the Nazca area, why is it an extreme desert now? In part because it was severely and directly struck by the solar outburst discharges that in this region penetrated through the atmosphere and directly hit the surface of Earth. And what about the Nazca lines and geoglyphs? Could they, like the petroglyphs found worldwide, have originated as a record of what ancient peoples saw in the sky? (See A. L. Peratt and W. F. Yao, 5 December 2008, Physica Scripta, for a similar suggestion.) Or might the lines and geoglyphs perhaps be the remnants of marks on the desert floor left directly by the solar outbursts? As an analogy, think of the path left by a tornado cutting across the surface of Earth. And could there have even been a searing or branding effect of some plasma forms or figures, initially in the sky, onto the surface of the land? Perhaps ancient peoples, survivors of these events and their descendants for untold generations, venerated, preserved, augmented, and embellished any such natural features, even to the point where it is difficult to nearly impossible to recognize the original lines and geoglyphs that may have been formed directly by the solar outburst.

This may be a beautiful (or to some, an outrageous) hypothesis, but is there any evidence to support it? Looking at various lines of geological, climatological, paleoenvironmental geomorphological, and geoarchaeological evidence, a team of scientists led by Bernhard Eitel (University of Heidelberg) has made the case that the Nazca region went from semi-humid to arid conditions at the end of the ice age and into post-ice age conditions (Archaeometry, 2005, vol. 47, no. 1, 137–158). While compatible with the hypothesis I have outlined, their analysis does not specifically support a solar outburst (nor does it refute the hypothesis). What we need is some telltale markers that would only be expected if a solar outburst had indeed occurred and “touched down” in the Nazca area. Two possibilities come to mind: 1) vitrification; that is, ancient surface glass formed by high-temperature electrical discharges hitting rocks and soil, causing temporary surface melting that then cools to form natural glass products, and 2) any evidence of widespread and extremely strong “lightning” strikes due to powerful electrical discharges.

Although I have viewed the Nazca lines from both the air and at ground level (from an observation tower and looking beyond a fence), I have not had the opportunity to collect samples, but others have. Undertaking a petrographic and geochemical analysis of rock debris from the Nazca lines region, Andreas Weller (Clausthal University of Technology, Germany) and colleagues found glass fragments (Journal of Earth Science and Engineering, 2013, vol. 3, 159-167), which they classified as volcanic. I wonder if perhaps some of the glass fragments are the result of vitrification due to a solar outburst and associated electrical discharges. More significant and telling, however, are the findings of Tomasz Gorka, Jörg W. E. Fassbinder, and Karsten Lambers who, in carrying out geophysical magnetometry studies of the geoglyphs of the Palpa to Nazca region, found that “the total field measurements are dominated by remanent magnetization of lightning strikes” (Studijné zvesti Archeologického Ustavu Slovenskej Akadémie Vied, 2007, vol. 41, 176-179; quote from p. 178). This is an absolutely astounding discovery, in my assessment (and interestingly foreshadowed by G. H. Williamson, as discussed earlier). What kind of conventional lightning strikes could cause widespread magnetization? Given the hyper-arid environment of the area for thousands of years, perhaps going back to the end of the last ice age (9700 BCE), what opportunity would there be for massive lighting strikes to hit the area? Unless, of course, we consider the concept of “lightning” from a solar outburst.

Based on the evidence, although admittedly limited, there is a strong case to be made that the origins of the Nazca lines and geoglyphs can be traced back to the event, the solar outburst, that brought the last ice age to a close, circa 9700 BCE. Previously Katie and I noted the remarkable similarities between some of the Nazca geoglyphs, plasma petroglyphs, and Rongorongo glyphs (see Forgotten Civilization). Now we have further support that this connection is significant and real. Nazca is an additional record of one of the most significant—perhaps the most significant—and momentous events in human history.


Robert M. Schoch, Honorary Professor at the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy and a full-time faculty member at Boston University, earned his Ph.D. in geology and geophysics at Yale University. Best known for re-dating the Great Sphinx, he is the author of Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future, and many other books. Website:

By Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D.