The function and meaning behind the Nazca lines is a mystery that has intrigued scientists for decades. Now a group of Japanese researchers believe that it could have been a way of marking paths and trails.

These lines are a set of hundreds of geometric figures of animals, people or plants located in the vast desert in the region of Ica, south of Lima, created by the Nazca culture (I-VII centuries), whose functions and meanings are preserved without being clear

Masato Sakai, a researcher at Yamagata University in Japan, leads a team dedicated to studying these mysterious lines, which has discovered more than 350 figures since 2004 with the help of local archaeologists, aerial photographs and drones.

Sakai explains that there are two types of figures, linear type figures (such as the well-known hummingbird), and that they were made by removing the upper black stones to reveal the white ground below; and relief type, which combine several sizes to make a figure.

“The linear type exists at the beginning and end of straight paths and can be used to travel from one valley to another, which is about 20 kilometers away, while the relief type is found on the sides of roads that are not straight and tend to draw. on the slope,” he claims.

Traditionally, some hypotheses suggested that the Nazca lines were a large astronomical calendar, other experts believed that they were religious figures, and some ufologists that they were landing strips for extraterrestrial ships.

For this Japanese explorer, his interests have always been letters and alphabets, so he wanted to know how this civilization could communicate without these systems.

“I am interested in letters. Everyone uses alphabets, but the Andean civilization didn’t have that way of communication, so I wanted to know how they did it. I was interested in a civilization without letters,” he says.

Despite their age, these famous figures were not discovered until the 1930s because the flat surface of the desert only allowed the designs to be fully seen from the air or from the surrounding hills.

When these Japanese researchers started the project, they mainly had satellite or aerial photographs, but recently they have also managed to incorporate drones, which have helped to find hundreds of figures.

Since 2019, they’ve also signed a deal with tech giant IBM, whose artificial intelligence (AI) can help locate more of the figures, which in turn open up other hypotheses about their true meaning.

“By knowing the location of these figures, we can understand what experiences these people had when traveling through these areas. It is always a hypothesis, but we hope that with the help of artificial intelligence we can verify whether it is correct or present a better one that corresponds to the new data,” says the expert.

Finding all the numbers, which an expert believes could exceed a thousand, is key to preserving them both from the climate and from economic activity in the area, such as mining or agriculture.

“For the Nazca people, the geoglyphs are a source of pride because the city is not that big, but many people come to see the figures. When we find new ones, we share the information with the local people, because we know they will respect and protect them, as this is the work of their ancestors,” concludes the researcher.