A 37 meter long cat has been lying on a Peruvian hillside for 2,000 years. This isn’t some fantasy creature, but an ancient art example called a geoglyph. Archaeologists stumbled upon it doing refurbishment work on the famous Nazca Lines.
Geoglyphs are made by removing pebbles, revealing what Science Alert describes as a “yellow grey soil” below. In this case someone etched the profile of a feline body, with lines ranging from 30 – 40 cm. The head faces out. The animal displays “pointy ears, orb-like eyes and a long striped tail”, according to the New York Times.
Situated south of Peru’s capital city Lima, the Nazca Lines were crafted over hundreds of years. Stretching for approx 50 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the Times reports, it was discovered in 1927 by native history hunter Toribio Mejia Xesspe.
Who is responsible for the ancient milk drinker? The style suggests the Paracas people, who lived there between approx 800 and 100 BC. It’s believed the cat hails from the late Paracas period.
They were succeeded by the Nazca, who also made geoglyphs. However, there are notable differences. The Paracas are known for depicting cats for instance, alongside birds and humans. Ceramics and textiles show feline renderings.
News agency Efe talks with chief archaeologist Johny Isla. Quoting his remarks, their article notes, “while the figures of the Nazca culture are made ‘by men for the gods,’ those of the Paracas ‘are of men for men’.”
What does this mean? While no-one knows what the geoglyphs represent, many are so enormous they can only be spotted from the air. It stands to reason they were intended for a god’s eye view. Another theory claims them to be astronomical markers.
The Paracas don’t appear to have etched glyphs for the Almighty. Nevertheless, that kind of POV is easily achievable today thanks to drones. Indeed, the cat was noticed with the help of one.
Experts are lucky to have found the cat when they did. In a statement, Peru’s Ministry of Culture says the geoglyph was “about to disappear due to its location on a fairly steep slope and the effects of natural erosion.”
The slope in question is the Mirador Natural, a place where lines converge, making it an ideal choice for a viewing platform. Workers were in the process of sorting that out when the cat made an unexpected appearance! The archaeology team then spent a week cleaning up the find.
Despite using stone, these creations are fragile. “The authorities said that even a stray footprint could mar the fragile grounds” writes the Times. Visitors have been kept at a distance during the pandemic, with the Lines due to open again to the public next month.
Another factor leading to the cat surviving a couple of thousands years is climate. The Lines benefit from a lack of heavy weather and are relatively undisturbed by the elements.
Isla is hopeful for the future, with advances in technology meaning experts no longer have to squint from an aircraft. Quoted by Euronews he says, “there are new ones and we will continue to find more.” In recent times around 100 have been spotted in the Nazca and Palpa valleys.
Some think certain geoglyphs go beyond the ancient world. As The Guardian mentions, one is thought to resemble an astronaut. Talking of space, it’s also believed ET may have worked on the Lines before he phoned home.
All That’s Interesting writes the humans may have received “extraterrestrial instructions”, making “landing strips and runways for alien spacecraft, or to attract aliens with images big enough to be visible from space.”
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Until the aliens arrive to support those ideas, the Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpas – officially named in 2016 – will continue to fascinate and perplex inquiring minds.