, Volume 96, Issue 10, pp 1213–1220 | Cite as

The Nasca and Palpa geoglyphs: geophysical and geochemical data

  • Kerstin HartschEmail author
  • Andreas Weller
  • Silvia Rosas
  • Gunter Reppchen


The Nasca geoglyphs in the stone desert in southern Peru are part of our world cultural heritage. These remarkable drawings have roused the interest of scientists from different disciplines. Here we report the results of integrated geophysical, petrophysical, mineralogical, and geochemical investigations of the geoglyphs at six test sites in the stone desert around Nasca and Palpa. The geomagnetic measurements revealed clear indications of subsurface structures that differ from the visible surface geoglyphs. The high-resolution geoelectrical images show unexpected resistivity anomalies underneath the geoglyphs down to a depth of about 2 m. Remarkable structures were revealed in both vertical and lateral directions. No evidence was found of geochemical or mineralogical alterations of the natural geogenic materials (desert pavement environment versus geoglyphs). Neither salts nor other mineral materials were used by the Nasca people to alter or prepare the surfaces of geoglyphs. This supports the hypothesis that the Nasca people simply removed stone material down to the natural hard pan horizon to create the geoglyphs.


Nasca lines Geophysical investigation Geochemical investigation 



We are indebted to the Peruvian partners and authorities that enabled and supported our project, namely, Dr. Luis Jaime Castillo (head of the PUCP Office of International Affairs), Gabriel More More (archaeologist, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos Lima), Mario Olaechae Aquije (INC representative for Nasca) and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC), which approved our project by the Resolucion Directoral National No. 1106. Moreover, we particularly thank all Peruvian (Viviana Moreno, Jorge Novoa, Yanlui Velásquez) and German (Theresa Burkhardt, Johannes Fröhlich, Dorothee Grewer, Daniel Hartzendorf, Michael Lay and Esther Vogt) students participating both in the hard field work in the desert and in data processing and interpretation. We thankfully acknowledge the support of Prof. Dr. J. Matschullat and Prof. Dr. J. Götze (Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany), as well as Dr. W. Morche (Lima, Peru) for his critical discussion of volcanic activities in southern Peru.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Hartsch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andreas Weller
    • 2
  • Silvia Rosas
    • 3
  • Gunter Reppchen
    • 4
  1. 1.H&GDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of GeophysicsClausthal University of TechnologyClausthal-ZellerfeldGermany
  3. 3.Pontificia Universidad Católica del PerúLimaPerú
  4. 4.University of Applied Sciences (HTW), Faculty Surveying / CartographyDresdenGermany

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