The Chincha Lines: Desert Geoglyphs Older Than the Nazca Lines

Learn about the location, history and significance of The Chincha Lines, which predate the Nazca Lines by more than 300 years.
The famous Nazca lines seen from the sky: the Hummingbird. Photo by Overlandsphere

A mysterious discovery was recently made in Peru: ancient rock lines were found that predate the well-known Nazca lines by more than 300 years. The lines, called The Chincha Lines, were constructed more than 2,300 years ago in the heart of the Chincha Valley. Who constructed the rock lines? And what is the significance of the discovery? Archeologists believe that this new site was once home to ancient ceremonies, used to direct people to large trading sites.

Mapping The Chincha Lines

The Chincha Lines were discovered on May 5th, 2014, in the Chincha valley, located at 125 miles (200km) from Lima in Peru. This area has a rich history of native settlements pre-dating European arrival, from at least 800 B.C to 1500s A.D Charles Stanish, director of Cotsen Institute of Archeology at UCLA, led the excavations with a team of researchers.

Stanish and his team found lines that are made up of rows of carefully placed rocks near large earthen mounds. The mounds were mapped, along with the associated rock lines found in close proximity. A total of 71 geoglyph lines were found, along with 353 stacks of stones (rock cairns). These stones formed into circles and rectangles, and a collection of lines that converge in a circle of rays.

Map Peru ChinchaChincha is located in the southern coastal region of Peru, just south of Lima.
Photo by Climate Change Institute

Older than the Nazca lines

In the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanish states that the structures were created by the Paracas people, a civilization arising around 800 B.C. The Chincha Lines themselves are thought to date back to about 300 B.C. This means that they predate the Nazca lines by 300 years. The Nazca people are known for their grand geoglyphs, or rock lines, which were skillfully built into aerial images representing a bird, monkey, and other animal shapes.

lines built by the Paracas people centuries prior to the Nazca people

The lines built by the Paracas people predate the Nazca lines by centuries. Photo by ZME Science

Significant findings: Trade and the coast

Thorough excavation and mapping of the area shows an intricately built environment. One significant discovery is that various long rock lines mark the exact place where the sun would have set in the June solstice. Another duo of U-shaped mounds point to the June solstice sunset, and a large area atop one mound also lines up with the solstice.

But what were the main uses of the lines? Stanish tells Live Science: “They used the lines in a different way than the Nazca… They basically created these areas of highly ritualized processions and activities that were not settled permanently.” This can most closely be compared to medieval fairs that once existed, bringing visitors from far away. Some of the newly discovered lines run parallel to roads still currently in use.

In total the lines and mounds found are approximate 9 miles (15 km) from coast settlements. Stanish and his team believe these old “fairgrounds” were made on non-farmable land, and intended to attract nearby buyers and tradespeople from both the Andean highlands and the coast. In other words, the lines and pyramids served as ancient advertising or neon signs to attract participants, “expending time and effort and resources to make [their] place bigger and better” Stanish tells Live Science.

In order to prove their theories, the team wants to now excavate the pyramids in close proximity to the coast. They focused specifically on finding items that would link those settlements to the mounds and lines.

Curious or intrigued by these findings? Leave your comments and/or questions below!

Newly discovered rock lines in Chincha

Lines and mounds were discovered by Stanish and his team. Photo via Tebogo Edgar

Paracas textile

A textile made by the Paracas people of Peru. Photo by Mike Peel


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