The story of the Nazca people's incredibly huge drawings on the pampa of Peru, laid down over a thousand-year period from...


LINES TO THE MOUNTAIN GODS: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru

The story of the Nazca people's incredibly huge drawings on the pampa of Peru, laid down over a thousand-year period from A.D. 500 to A.D. 1500, and of scholarly ideas about them. A PBS documentary The Mysteries of Peru--for which Hadingham was consultant--will be aired next fall. It was only during the past 50 years that airborne archaeologists could actually make out these supergigantic animal and geometric figures in the earth. When Peru was conquered by the Spanish and the Indian empires destroyed, the Nazca stopped drawing the figures. They have remained, rather like footprints on the moon, for 20th-century scholars to sweep clean and reveal in their full mystery. The mystery includes a tremendous canal system of stone channels built over a 200-year period in a colossal effort that outstrips the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza many times over--though the system was abandoned because of shiftings in the earth's tectonic plates. During ten centuries, Hadingham suggests, the purpose behind the great drawings must have changed as Nazca shamanism evolved. Maria Reiche, the unofficial ""custodian of the lines"" who has devoted her life to their preservation and interpretation, sees the figures as a secret system of geometry. Her mentor, American Paul Kosok, saw them as expressions of tyrannical astronomer-priests, like the stones at Stonehenge. Only about a quarter of the figures are animals: a monkey, a vast spider, and so on. ""Perhaps the single most striking aspect of all the animals is. . .that each outline was executed with a single narrow continuous line. . .[like] a children's game in which the object is to complete a drawing without lifting the pen off the paper."" Hadingham himself goes into a brilliant exposition of the native drug cup ture (one paranoiac tribe, the Jivaro, ""believed that the ordinary, waking world was an illusion"" and preferred a mental state created by their hallucinogens), Which induced widespread feelings of out-of-body flight and allowed shamans to become eagles, i.e., visionaries who could look down on the tremendous drawings and see them as no one on earth might. A wonderful show of the Andean peoples, their achievements, and their enduring legacy of mystery.

Pub Date: March 28, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987