Scientists discovered more than 140 designs that were carved in the earth by an ancient people, and they’re hoping they might hold clues to the ways they lived, thousands of years in the past.
Researchers from Yamagata University in Yamagata, Japan, discovered the ancient pictures, which are known as geoglyphs. They were carved out of the sand on a Peruvian coastal plain and resemble living things and other objects.
The new geoglyphs join an existing collection of mysterious drawings in Peru known as the Nazca Lines.
The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. At the time, just 30 geoglyphs had been identified.
“These lines, which were scratched on the surface of the ground between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, are among archaeology’s greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity,” according to UNESCO’s listing.
The figures were created by removing the black stones that cover the land, exposing the white sand, the scientists said, and are categorized into two main types based on how they were likely produced.
The larger Type A geoglyphs were made by removing stones to form lines, while Type B, the smaller ones, were created by removing stones to make solid-colored surfaces.
“Type A geoglyphs are generally distributed near the river valley, while Type B geoglyphs are distributed beside paths or on sloping inclines and are thought to have been used as wayposts when traveling,” Professor Masato Sakai, who led the research team, told CNN.
Sakai’s team used fieldwork and high-resolution 3D data to find the new images, which are thought to date back to at least 100 B.C. to A.D. 300, according to a news release.
“The new discoveries will provide us some clues for understanding pattern of distribution of biomorphic geoglyphs in more detail,” said Sakai. He added that protecting the new geoglyphs is a priority, as “geoglyphs are being destroyed near the urban area.”
The team also worked with IBM Japan between 2018 and 2019 to find its first geoglyph through artificial intelligence at this location. Artificial intelligence allows researchers to identify geoglyphs much more efficiently than older methods of manually looking through aerial photographs, which took “a vast amount of time,” Sakai said.
Sakai and other researchers at Yamagata University have been studying the lines since 2004, and are working to bring awareness to their existence to preserve them for future generations.