Archeologists found an enormous geoglyph of an orca whale, carved into a desert in the distant Palpa area of southern Peru, after it was lost for over 50 years.
The 70-meter-long orca drawing— regarded as a mighty, semimythical animal in old Peruvian legends — might be over 2,000 years of age, the scientists believe.
They believe it is one the oldest geoglyphs in the Palpa area, and even older than the ones in the near Nazca area, which is known for its great collection of old geoglyphs — the Nazca Lines —including animal figures, straight lines and geometrical forms.
Archeologist Johnny Isla from Peru’s Ministry of Culture in Ica region, where the Palpa and Nazca valleys belong, stated that he came across only one photo of the killer-whale figure only once around four years ago, at the German Archeological Institute in Bonn, while looking into studies of geoglyphs.
He saw the photo in an archeological catalog of geoglyphs from the 1970s, which was founded on a study performed in Palpa and Nazca by German archeologists in the 1960s.
However the site and dimensions of the killer-whale geoglyph were not well-presented in the catalog, Isla stated for Live Science in an email.
Consequently, he added, the glyph’s location in the desert hills of the Palpa Valley, about 400 kilometers south of Lima, was so far unfamiliar to the locals or to researchers.
When he came back to Peru, Isla searched the killer-whale geoglyph on Google Earth and on foot, which was not an easy task. But he managed to find it several months later in January 2015.
In March and April 2007, Isla led a team of six experts from Peru’s Ministry of Culture, to try to clean and restore the killer-whale geoglyph.
Before that, the geoglyph was vanishing because of erosion and time. The geoglyphs which are in flat regions, like the ones of the Nazca Pampa last longer, than the ones in slopes.
The people who made the killer-whale figure on the slope in negative relief, did that by taking away a thin layer of stones to shape the outline of the geoglyph, like the method of the Nazca people to make geoglyphs from around 100 B.C. to A.D. 800.
However, some parts, for example, the eyes, were made out of heaps of stones, a method used by ancient Paracas people, who lived there between 800 B.C. - 200 B.C.
Soil investigations have shown that the killer-whale geoglyph originates from about 200 B.C. Its style and location imply that it could be one of the oldest geoglyphs around, said one of Isla’s collaborators, Markus Reindel of the German Archeological Institute for a German daily.
Isla said that before the recent restoration, it would have been difficult for others to see the orca.
The Paracas culture had emerged in the valleys of Chincha, Pisco and Ica, north of Palpa, after 800 B.C. and afterwards they inhabited the valleys of Nazca and Palpa, Isla clarified. According to him, Paracas society, was theocratic and agricultural, and had advanced production of earthenware production and fabrics.
The landscape where the Nazca and Palpa geoglyphs are discovered is like the coastal desert, north of the Atacama Desert that includes some valleys as well. People lived on the verge of the valleys and the desert’s hillsides and plateaus they created the geoglyphs.
The geoglyphs of Palpa and Nazca occupy space of more than 450 square km. It is not known what they served for, however it is believed that they were mostly religious symbols.
Isla and Reindel have studied the Palpa area as of the 1990s, discovering more than thousand geoglyphs, some of which are more than 400 m in length, as presented in an article from 2005 in the magazine Andean Past.
Peru’s Ministry of Culture is attempting to provide access to the killer-whale geoglyph and give elementary services to visitors. But, recently visit to the geoglyph was forbidden because of cases of “land traffickers,” who could claim uncultivated land according to the Peruvian law.
In Nazca, as well as in Palpa, the archeological legacy, particularly the geoglyphs, has been endangered by urban progress and the spreading of the farming boundaries. This has occurred with the lands close to the killer-whale geoglyph, where at the moment there is a private property that possesses some portion of the archeological site.