Scientists generally agree on how these lines in the Nazca Desert were made, but not why.

The Peruvian desert speaks….but what does it say? Some 200 miles south of the capital city of Lima, in the arid sands of the Pampas of Jumana, lie the giant petroglyphs of the Nazca Desert.

They have been there for several thousand years, scraped into the desert floor by the people of the ancient Nazca culture which flourished there centuries before the great Inca civilization, centuries before the devastating conquistadores of Francisco Pizzaro.

Michael Chriss, a member of the University of Arizona Department of Astronomy, will discuss the lines in a 3:30 p.m. lecture, “The Nazca Lines Mystery,” on Wednesday (June 13) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.

The lines and figures vary in complexity and size, with the largest up to 1,200 feet long. More than 70 are designs of animals, such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, and monkeys, or human figures. Other designs include plant-like shapes, such as trees and flowers.

Discovered by Western archeologists just 100 years ago, they have puzzled many scholars who have wondered about their origin and purpose. Indeed, in our generation of fanciful claims, some have even suggested that alien astronauts of long, long ago were involved.

But wiser heads have prevailed, and we have learned to have great respect for the abilities of those who lived in Peru so long ago.

Michael Chriss

Before his retirement, Chriss was an adjunct professor of astronomy at San Francisco State University and professor of astronomy and humanities at the College of San Mateo, where he had been teaching since 1966. He received his degrees in astronomy at the University of Arizona with further studies in history of art and science at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Oxford University. Upon retiring, Chriss moved to Tucson and became an associate lecturer in astronomy at the UA.

Written by Michael Chriss, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

The Nazca Lines Mystery: June 2018
Tagged on: