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The Therapy for Black Girls podcast is your space to explore mental health, personal development and all of the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves. I'm your host, Dr. Joy Hardan Braford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia. And I can't wait for you to join the conversation every Wednesday. This is a Therapy for Black Girls podcast on the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast.


Take good care. The Therapy for Black Girls podcast is your space to explore mental health, personal development and all of the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves. I'm your host, Dr. Joy Hardan Braford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, and I can't wait for you to join the conversation every Wednesday. This is a Therapy for Black Girls podcast on the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast.


Take good care.


Happy Saturday, everybody.


This week we talked about Peruvian archaeologist Julio Teo and his work in Nasca came up over the course of that episode. And the Nazca lines also came up in our most recent installment of Unearthed. We talked about that Kittie that looked like a not real thing to me.


Let me see you. So today we are bringing our classic episode on the Nazca lines back into the field. So in this episode, as we are talking about the theories behind the lines, one of the things that we mentioned is the idea put forth by swith author Erik von Dagen that aliens were involved, that fed into a Web series on the Nazca lines that came out in 2017. And that Web series led Peruvian archaeologists to rigorously debunk it. And it also led a lot of people to know that this whole troupe of indigenous works of art and architecture being the work of aliens, is actually racist because it gives extraterrestrials the credit for indigenous accomplishments and it implies that indigenous peoples are not capable of having done those creations.


This episode originally came out in September of 2013.


Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class A production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast I'm calling from and I'm Tracy Wilson and I kind of we're doing this topic today because we've gotten several requests to do some South American history and so many.


And can we we talk for a second about why we have not had a ton of fun. Yeah, much of the information is in languages that neither of us read fluently. Yeah. And it makes me really sad because I'll find some awesome, awesome historical figure from South American history and I'll be able to find like a short encyclopedia article in English. And then anything more substantive is in Spanish or Portuguese or another language that I sadly do not read well enough to use as a history source on this podcast.


Yeah, that's the general trickiness in multiple areas. I mean, there are a lot of there's a lot of African history. I would love to cover that.


It's a little bit hard to find source material or if we do find source material, it's deeply biased in the favor of. Yeah.


Whoever was colonizing. Yeah. So that's sort of why sometimes these don't get as much play as we would like.


But luckily today's topic has been studied by so many people that there is loads of information out there and that is the Nazca lines.


So to give it some context, about 200 miles southeast of Lima, Peru, nestled right between the Andes Mountains in the Pacific Ocean, there are these huge lines etched into the desert. When I see lines, that's not really entirely accurate in terms of characterization.


You've probably seen photos of these before, but if you haven't, they're really, really astonishing.


We're talking about large scale designs and some of them are things you would recognize like a monkey or a spider or a condor. There's a hummingbird. Others are geometric. And because they're etched into rock and have survived thousands of years, this was clearly like a serious amount of work that went into the creation of these.


The environment in this part of the world has really helped preserve the work of the Nazca. It's a really arid climate and there's not a lot of erosion, which means that even tracks from chariots that were left in the 16th century by warring conquistador factions are all still visible in some places.


Yeah, there are like tire tracks from the 1920s in that area that you can still clearly see. Footprints last for hundreds of years. It's unusual because it is close to the ocean, yet it is very, very dry.


And for decades these designs caused a lot of head scratching because we didn't understand why a culture would devote so much energy to creating art that we thought they couldn't really see themselves because these are so expansive.


And we'll talk a little bit about their size in a moment that, you know, it seems you only see them from the air.


Right. A lot of the photos of them that exist were taken from from aircraft. Yeah.


I mean, they've been featured in, like, coffee-table books of like aerial archaeology.


And it is hard to imagine how they would ever look like anything from ground level.


But scientists and researchers are continuing to uncover new information about these pieces of landscape art. We're learning more all the time. The picture keeps getting fuller. And there's still a good bit of theory in the mix, though. We think we figured out what these lines might be about or some researchers think they've figured it out.


There have been warring opinions on this, but there's no, you know, final oh, it's all been made clear by this discovery.


And as a note, there is a modern day town of Nazca, which has a population of about 30000 people. But for this discussion, when we use the word Nazca, we're referring to the ancient culture or the location of the glyphs.


Right. So, as I said before, the NASCAR region, one of the driest places on earth, it often goes more than a year without rain. And the pompa, the Nazca desert, sometimes it will get like a rainfall of 12 minutes a year.


So very, very little moisture going on.


The Nazca culture, which predates the Incans, was in its flourish phase between 200 and 600.


And there are to these lines more than 800 straight lines.


There are more than 300 geometric figures and roughly 70 animal or plant designs.


The whole collection of drawings spans a huge area.


Some of the geometric shapes are more than six miles across and some of the straight lines are 30 miles long altogether.


The area that the shape span is nearly 500 square kilometers or 190 square miles.


And just as a note on the thirty miles long one, I have heard differing or read differing statements about the longest line, some it as low as nine, some go as high as 30. I think there are probably some that maybe have petered out and it's hard to discern for certain. So some are attributing length that may or may not be attributed by. Other people, depending on if it's faded, if it's, you know, maybe it was one of the lines, maybe it was part of the natural landscape.


So I just know that going in and researchers believe that all of the designs were created using the same methodology.


So basically using wooden spades to kind of shave or carve off the top layer of the rock and expose the lighter sediment beneath.


Some of the drawings are actually carved on top of older ones.


So there was clearly a long term tradition of making these glyphs, and that tradition might have evolved over time.


The age of the drawings and even the age of the culture have been debated and the dates revised.


As people keep analyzing all the evidence, it'll probably be even further revised as time goes on. But a number that you'll see pretty often in the research is that the lines date back 2500 years, although some newer data suggest that at least some of them are even older than that.


The UNESCO listing for the site gives the date range of between 500 BCE to 500 see, and the designs are grouped into two types.


There are Geoglyph and Biomorphs and the geoglyph are geometric shapes. And the biomorphs says you may have guessed feature animal or human shapes. In addition to the ones that I mentioned earlier, there's also a hummingbird. There's a fish, a flamingo, an iguana, a fox, a whale, and even others. But just to keep it confusing, often when you're looking at research, the whole group is often lumped under the geoglyph name rather than separating out into those two separate geoglyph and biomorphic.


Though there was some archaeological work being done in Nazca in the late 1920s by a Peruvian archaeologist who spotted some of the designs while hiking in the nearby foothills. The lines weren't really known of outside the area until a commercial pilot spotted them in the 30s.


And sometimes that date is another one that is a little fuzzy in resources that you'll read.


Some will list it as late 20s, other in the early 30s. But once the impressive geoglyph were known to the outside world almost immediately, of course, people were trying to figure out what they were about.


Some posited that they were inken roots. Some suggested that they were irrigation lines. The nearby Cerro Blanca Mountain, which is technically actually a sand dune, but it's like the largest standing in the world, I think, or ranks up there is the primary water source for the area because of an underground reservoir.


And at least one of the triangular geoglyph runs along the water veins that are in that mountain.


Another favorite, as is always a favorite for everything cool, comes up in every piece of sort of difficult to explain or we haven't done the research that finds the key yet.


Aliens, aliens, their alien landing strips, mostly popular in the 1960s, also not particularly surprising. It was perpetuated mostly by Eric von Danskin, who has made a career as an author specializing in writing about alien interaction with humans, especially in early cultures.


Yeah, Danny can actually really angered one of the people who really dedicated their lives to studying this with his theories.


And then others have applied the concept that they have religious meaning. And there are variations on this one, that the lines are paths to rituals or that their messages to the gods, etc..


American Paul Kazik, who was a professor of history at Long Island University, is often credited with being the first person to seriously study these lines. His interest was really irrigation, and it was the theory that the lines could have been complex water routing ditches that led him to Peru.


But he almost immediately realized that the lines were just too shallow to carry water.


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On June 22nd, 1941, he saw that the straight-line he was standing near pointed directly at the setting sun and he believed that it was a marker for the winter solstice.


In the meantime, a young woman named Maria Rilke, who was a mathematician from Dresden, Germany, and spoke five languages, also started analyzing and mapping the drawings in 1941.


And she came to that because she had actually gone to South America initially to tutor a diplomat's children, but then started working as a translator in Lima. And it was through her translation work that she actually met Paul Kazik in Lima. And the professor really became a mentor to Rika.


And once she learned of the lines, it was kind of I don't want to overromanticize it and say it was love at first sight thing, but she pretty quickly just decided that was her life's work.


She really did devote the rest of her life to them.


And she even lived in a small desert house near the Nazca lines to serve as their protector.


So even though it's this huge expanse, this one woman kind of out there in the desert living by herself, really felt like she had to keep a watch on everything. And she became known as The Lady of the Lines.


And she actually, as I said, she lived out her life there. She became a Peruvian citizen in 1994 at the age of 91, and was very highly regarded, I think, by the Peruvian people and by the government.


But her work with Kazik really in that early stage really formed the basis for the rest of her analysis. Right.


While working with him. Six months after this winter solstice revelation, she discovered a line that pointed to the sun during the summer solstice. This led to believe that they had uncovered a celestial calendar and he characterized the Nazca lines as the world's largest astronomy book.


This really reminds me of Stonehenge and how if you stand in certain places and Stonehenge, you see specific, they line up with specific astronomical events.


Yeah, it's much bigger. It's much, much, much bigger than Stonehenge, but similarly mysterious. Yeah. And in 1948, Kazik left Peru.


It was not his life's work, even though he loved it. But Maria stayed and she continued working. And she was really attempting to find a pattern or a system to all of the drawings.


And she spent more than 40 years mapping the area. And as part of her work, she even painstakingly restored portions of the glyphs that had been obscured over time. Some of them had accumulated dust or debris or the the layers that had been exposed had darkened from sunlight exposure or other elemental exposure. And she would pull those away, never altering the glyphs, but just, you know, a little tidying and restoration.


She believed that these drawings were tracking the sun's path and position in the sky and that the Nazca were using their knowledge of equinoxes to schedule when they should plant and harvest their crops. She also theorized that some of the glyphs were symbols correlated to the constellations and Rika working, you know, as a woman.


So analyzing these phenomena.


She was not taken seriously. And she initially published your findings in the late 40s, shortly after Kazik left.


And she her writings were pretty much met with ridicule.


The competing theorists all pointed out the vast majority of the lines in the glyphs did not point to any celestial bodies. Yeah, there was a lot of criticism that she had, you know, found she had kind of cherry picked a few things that lined up with her idea and then the things that didn't line up with she wasn't really worried about or working into the bigger theory.


But just before Rika died in 1998, one of her proteges, who was a senior astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago at the time, named Phyllis B. Plugger, she actually came to the conclusion that the bio glyphs were referring to the heavens.


She concluded that they aren't representing constellations but counter constellations to sort of the irregular shaped dark patches within the Milky Way that you can see at night, like the the negative space between the stars. I love that. I do, too.


I looked around for a little more research on it and didn't find a whole lot. But that's one that I would like to delve further into because it's kind of cool and fascinating.


But that's one of those things that I worry and I'm certainly not an astronomer. I worry that that might be, again, one of those things that it's easy to make work, you know? I mean, there are so many stars in the night sky that it would be easy to.


If you rotated a little, everything kind of fits or bright again, I'm just postulating and I haven't looked at her research well, and because the North Pole gradually moves over time, the constellations are all in a slightly different place over time. Yeah.


Which also makes it sound tricky.


Yeah, but it's a really neat concept now that we have all kinds of fancy computers that can adjust for those kinds of things.


It's a little easier, but still it can be tricky that way. In 1997, there was a big Peruvian German research collaboration that started near the town of Pupper and it has continued to study all the lines through the years since.


Archaeologist Dr. Markus Randall of the German Archaeological Institute still leads a team.


But he started in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the intent to take an in-depth look at the Peruvian Nazca lines. And their approach to the lines was not so much starting with the lines and trying to discern their meaning, but instead they really wanted to dig into the culture of the ancient Nazca to try to contextualize the Nazca lines and give a better basis for understanding their purpose. So it definitely took a deeper archaeological investigation at that point.


I love that, too. I do too.


Oh, they did some really cool stuff because of grave robbers.


The whole desert around this area is littered with all kinds of broken pottery and skeletons, basically a big mess as people have plundered Nazca burial grounds. But 80 years ago, a number of intact mummies from the Nazca land were rescued and preserved. Yeah, they have been just sitting in a museum. But Randall's research team decided that they wanted to use modern technology to try to analyze those mummies as part of their kind of mission to do more of a cultural analysis.


And one of the things that was interesting is that this their analysis revealed dietary differences between some of the mummies.


Some were getting more animal protein and varied diets. And around the same time that these were going on, another part of the team found a burial shaft for a person who obviously had kind of a higher social standing. It was adorned with a personal shrine.


And these two pieces together, the variation in diets and the fact that they had found this shrine that clearly was different from previous burial sites, kind of locked together to lead researchers to believe that there was, in fact, a social class system at play in the Nasca culture is actually a pretty significant finding.


It may seem like, well, duh, every culture has a class system and a social hierarchy. But for a long time, people had believed that the ancient Nazca were a peaceful tribe that didn't have that kind of structure. So there's a famous ceramic tableau called the Taio plaque, which features multiple Nazca playing panpipes, walking with dogs.


And it was long held as this iconic representation of a relaxed tribal life without much of a class system.


Yeah, we you know, I think to put it in casual terms, I think people sort of thought of them as more like the hippies of history.


They were just all cool with each other.


Now being groovy, enjoying the land. So there were then some theories now that they had established that there did appear to be a class system, that the Nazca lines might have been commanded to be made by high ranking Deskins to mark their territory or show their prestige.


Zio electric tomography, which measures the electrical conductivity in the earth, was then used to try to find any undiscovered buildings or other structures that might inform this whole idea of a more socially stratified culture. The researchers did find other structures and they pieced together that with other discoveries and eventually assembled a pretty compelling model of how the Nazca were actually running a pretty successful trade empire linking settlements and trade spots like beads on a necklace. Yeah, at the time.


And I should say that the findings here were really expansive and they could easily be their own episode, but they sort of discovered that they could have traveled along what is now a dry portion of the river that was leading out to the ocean and that they had all of these small settlements, you know, dotting along the way so that they could go a little trade risk, a little trade risk.


And there were, again, in those findings that were not going to dig deep into you, but I at least want to acknowledge them.


They found some evidence that some of the glyphs and the structures that we've historically attributed to the Nazca were actually pre Nazca. And they trace it all the way back to like the migration down into South America.


But for the scope of this one, we're going to keep it simple with regard to the trade culture and that sort of other branch of the plotline of the Nasca and. Focus back on the lines, so perhaps in the future we will do another one entirely on that because there's cool stuff involving links to the Neolithic age that had not ever happened before. It's really, really fascinating research.


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As we've said already, we're talking about one of the driest places on the planet, but in one small basin, which is the area where the Nazca culture is said to have flourished, there were at one point at least 10 rivers which descended from the Andes.


Stephens Hall, writing for National Geographic, described them pretty poetically as fragile.


Ribbons of green surrounded by a thousand shades of brown. So most of these rivers would have each been dry for at least part of the year. This Nexus point offered up this perfect, fertile ground to support a settlement. It also came with a really high risk because the microclimate in that particular spot is really unstable. Any kind of small change, like a high pressure system moving through can completely dry out the Nazca Valley.


Yeah, because of the way the Andes rings the area, it's easy for some weather to get cut off by the system, moving over it, et cetera.


But at one point, it really would have been an oasis similar to other famous spots in terms of like civilization development, which are often an oasis, you know, kind of up against a desert.


And in this oasis, we know that the Nazca grew citrus. They grew grain, they grew maize. They had a really impressive well structure to bring water to all these crops and a business built around trading some of the crops because they were so abundant.


So in 2007, German geographers took samples from the Andean highlands where there's a climate archive. Basically the core drill that that we see a lot of times when we're studying long ago, facets of the earth. So the drill core revealed to the researchers, loam and even a snail. So there's proof that there was once a lot more moisture in the area.


Yeah, the permafrost there had really preserved things for quite some time.


So they were able to get a really deep sample.


So between then and now, when it's known for its dry climate, we know that the water had to have left the region. And this, in the minds of many researchers, is really the key to understanding the Nazca lines as more and more excavations have been done.


There's been the same imagery that's popped up over and over on everything from everyday tools to sacred objects, some of which have been identified as likely weathered deities.


They look just like the earliest rock carvings, which are mostly on the hills surrounding the area, sort of like protector's.


So is these.


Researchers theorize more and more droughts were happening in the desert, was advancing progressively into the Nazca plateau and really spelled out this the beginning of the end for the Nazca and the Nazca, believing that they had somehow failed.


The gods really stepped up their religious rituals, including their glyph making. Many of the animals that are featured in the biomorphs don't really live near the Nazca.


They are found more in rainforests on the other side of the Andes. So the current theory is that these figures are fertility prayers of a sort, asking the gods for the plenty of their neighbors, including water.


Yeah, there aren't monkeys there, but there is a monkey glyph. There are certainly aren't whales there, but there is a whale glyph. Some of the birds and other animals that they feature do not exist there. But again, right over the Andes in the rainforest, they're plentiful.


So it does make some sense, certainly that they would be like we would like what the neighbors have, please.


But the geometric sites, researchers think, are likely actually ritual sites.


And there is a very cool project that was done where they put together a computer graphics model of the entire area and they developed it with information that the researchers had provided regarding ruins and settlement structures of the time.


So it's a pretty comprehensive model of what would have been there.


And in this CGY version of the Nazca area, it shows that, in fact, people could have seen the glyphs from many of the buildings in the region, like they weren't necessarily tall, but they still would have had a better line of sight.


And this is a pretty significant break from the previous thinking that we talked about earlier, that they were only visible from the sky.


So that is, you know, a mistaken belief that has probably led many researchers down the wrong path, like process of thought that, oh, nobody could see these.


Why were they making them and how they probably could actually see some of them.


What's interesting about the geometric designs is that they're all walkable. They are mostly on the plateau. And this plus the revelation that you could see the glyphs from around the area have led researchers to theorize that there were huge ritual spectacles that could be performed.


There would be sort of like putting on a show for everyone to see, including.


The gods, yeah, so kind of religious theatricality, and it could very well be that the glyphs went from being pictorial to taking on this geometric approach, because at that point the Nazca were hurrying.


They knew that they were struggling and that they didn't really have time for a lot of artistic flourish.


So they started focusing more on straighter lines, circles that could be drawn inside straight lines. They didn't have to really worry as much about mirroring images. It was more like, OK, we've been doing this. We're not getting the God's attention, we're not gaining their favor. We have to do more and more and more. And we don't have time for all of the squiggles. Let's hurry.


So we just kind of sad to think about. Also an interesting approach to this question of what these things are and why they're there.


In 2000, Rindell and his team made an interesting discovery while archaeologists had noticed large manmade mounds of stones that they suspected were ceremonial altars at the end of the trapezoidal glyphs before an excavation of one of them revealed fragments of a spaniel's muscle seashell.


This particular muscle is only found off the coast of Peru during El Nino events. This would have tied it to rainfall in the minds of the Nazca. So the shells found at some of these altar sites might have been offerings to the gods from the sea to encourage water.


And this theory of water, worship and request of the gods is also supported by the growing size of the geoglyph in the later period of the ancient Nazca culture, as they grew more desperate as I was talking about before, they would have wanted everyone in their villages and settlements to participate in the water rituals.


So even the spiral lines and some of the geometric glyphs, if they were walking them the way these researchers are suggesting as part of their ritual, it would have forced the worshippers to face one another over and over.


Kind of like if you've ever been through like a long queue in an amusement park and you keep seeing the same people back and forth, and it would have, as they move through their steps, kind of reinforce their sense of community and potentially strengthen their resolve to plead for the gods, for their favor and for the good of everyone like they were potentially. This is one theory, of course, kind of reinforcing that idea that we all need to survive together.


So we all need to be doing this by 500 to 600. By the end of the Nasca was near the water issue would have really been insurmountable at this point. And we know that by six, the Nazca had been replaced by the Wari empire, which had its roots in the Central Highlands.




So since they weren't exclusively in this super dry area, they kind of had a stronger cultural presence that they they could branch out, but they always had that kind of more hospitable environment to return to you.


And so while there isn't enough evidence to definitively prove any of these theories, the celestial theory or certainly not the alien landing strip theory or even these sort of pretty well thought out water and God related theories, the current frontrunner among researchers, given what we've been able to uncover, does seem to be the religious ritual usage as a means to try to save the culture.


So to sort of wrap it up, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known as UNESCO, put the Nazca geoglyph on the World Heritage List in 1994.


And as I mentioned earlier, Maria Reichard died in June of 1998 at the age of 95, four years after the lines were added to UNESCO's list.


And there was talk at the time of her death that the lines should be named the Ryuko lines. But it appears that idea never really gained any traction.


I would like to vote against that, please. I think it would be too problematic for the historical record at this point.


Yeah, well, and I also think. I sort of feel like the name of the culture that made them, yeah, should be preserved there and not replaced with some other person. There have also been new figures discovered through the years. So even though Maria Ryuko was very thorough and dedicated to the lines, there have been advances in photography that have revealed some glyphs that were previously really hard to make out.


Yeah, she mapped the vast majority of them, but they still do sometimes discover them.


And while the Nazca lines are not the only such glyphs on Earth, they are perhaps the most famous. And even now, there's a significant tourism trade built around carrying people out to the desert for aerial tours to see these massive landscape carvings from the past. Just kind of neat.


I would like to go to your lady stuff in Peru.


Yeah, there's some delicious food even beyond the food. There are all kinds of my tourism is based entirely around what I can eat in different places.


But yeah, there's amazing, amazing archaeology and amazing, amazing ancient culture.


Yeah. Preserved. Yeah.


And it is one of those things where, like I said at the top, I think most people have probably seen pictures of these and maybe even heard a little bit about them. But when you realize how much research has been dedicated to them, I mean, even in doing this, there are so many archaeologists that we can't sort of step aside and talk about their individual work. So we focused on kind of the big ones.


But there's just people are really enthralled by them. And Maria Rakha is not the only person who pretty much dedicated her entire she dedicated her entire life. Other people, many people dedicate their careers to them.


Right. So, yeah, they're engaging. I like them. I would love to walk them all.


Well, and the fact that so many people have dedicated their lives to trying to puzzle out the mysteries of what these ancient sites were all about makes it seem really silly that occasionally, like governments will come up with this kooky plan about what to do with nuclear waste and say, well, if we market with these things, that will deter people like, OK, now in a thousand years, people are probably not going to be deterred.


They're going to be walking around trying to figure out what that was about.


Yeah, well, and there is even a I thought about that a little bit while doing research.


The big lizard glyph actually had its bisected by a highway that was built, I think it was 1939 that the that highway was worked on in Peru. And I wonder if, you know, years and years and years from now, someone will look at me like, why was the lizard cut in half?


And it's like, oh, I was really not part of the original plan, but they won't know that. Nope.


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America. Are you listening? Emmy Award winning host and journalist Carlos Watson. It may not feel like it, but we've been here before and it's up to us to lead the way. Resetting America, The Carlos Watson show, the L.A. Times says this is what true discussions should look like. If we're going to do bold things, we've got to have bold conversation. Good Morning America says this show is changing the conversation if we're ever going to reset America.


The time is now right to the Carlos Watson show on the radio.


But wherever you listen to that, it's safe to say 2020 was one of the most difficult years ever for so many. That's why I'm here to ask you, how can I help? My name is Dr. Gail Saltz.


I'm a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, host of the new weekly podcast. How can I Help with Dr. Gail Saltz, brought to you by the Seneca Women Podcast Network and I Heart Radio join me every Friday where you can ask your most pressing questions and I will answer with specific advice and understanding. Listen to how can I help with Dr. Gail Saltz on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast.