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Saturday, December 05, 2020

Explained: What is the giant cat drawing at a UNESCO World Heritage site in Peru?

The cat is an ancient geoglyph unearthed recently at Peru’s famous Nazca Lines.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 28, 2020 8:41:33 am
Nazca lines, Nazca lines Peru, cat geoglyph, cat geoglyph Nazca lines, what is a geoglyph, express explained, indian expressThe cat geoglyph, believed to be older than the ones previously found at Nazca, was discovered by archaeologists carrying out maintenance in the area during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Twitter/ @MinCulturaPe)

Peru’s famous Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its depictions of larger-than-life animals, plants and imaginary beings, grabbed the spotlight on social media recently after the discovery of a hitherto unknown massive carving –– that of a resting cat on the slope of a steep hill.

The discovery of the etchings, believed to be more than 2,000 years old, was announced by the South American country last week. Peru’s Ministry of Culture tweeted, “In the midst of the remodelling work that is being carried out at the Natural Viewpoint, in the Pampa de Nazca, a new figurative geoglyph was identified, -corresponding to a feline-, which had been drawn on one of the slopes of this hill.”

What are the Nazca Lines?

Considered among the top places to visit in Peru, the Nazca Lines are a group of geoglyphs, or large designs made on the ground by creators using elements of the landscape such as stones, gravel, dirt or lumber.

These are believed to be the greatest known archaeological enigma, owing to their size, continuity, nature and quality. The images on the ground are so big in size that the best way to get a full view of them is overflying them.

Drawn more than 2 millennia ago on the surface of southern Peru’s arid Pampa Colorada (“Red Plain” in Spanish), the geoglyphs feature different subjects, but mainly plants and animals. The figures include pelicans (the largest ones sized around 935 feet long), Andean Condors (443 feet), monkeys (360 feet), hummingbirds (165 feet), and spiders (150 feet).

There are also geometric shapes, such as triangles, trapezoids and spirals, and some have been associated with astronomical functions.

The Lines were first discovered in 1927, and were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. The site is around 450 km away from capital Lima southwards along the South Pan-American Highway.

Also Read | Flying over the mysterious Nazca Lines in Peru

The newly discovered lounging cat

The cat geoglyph, believed to be older than the ones previously found at Nazca, was discovered by archaeologists carrying out maintenance in the area during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Euro News.

What shapes can you spot? (Express Photo: Divya A)

Peru’s culture ministry said, “The figure was scarcely visible and was about to disappear, because it’s situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion.”

According to the ministry, the figure is 37 meters long when seen horizontally, and dates from the late Paracas era (500 BC – 200 AD). Restoration work carried out this month shows the feline figure in profile with its head in front, with lines marking it varying in width between 30 and 40 cm.

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“Representations of felines of this type are frequent in the iconography of ceramics and textiles of the Paracas society,” the press release said.

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