Nasca and Palpa

I saw today this National Geographic article, with yet a new theory of the origin of the Nasca lines. Reading it was interesting, albeit somewhat inconclusive. The great mystery remains – an enormous mystery that is not dispelled by a visit (including a flight on a small airplane) to Nasca and Palpa. On the ground, it is quite difficult to discern the lines – from the air, they reminded me of the sort of lines you may see in really ancient pottery – almost effaced by time, weather – yet unmistakably there.

Nasca is the famous name. Palpa is the “poor sibling”, the place one usually doesn’t hear mentioned. Nasca is not just the name of the (now touristic) town where you book the flight over the lines, it is also the name of one of the tectonic plates under the Pacific that caused earlier this month the brutal 8.8 earthquake in Chile – the plate that collides along the Andes and the coast and whose clash with the other, opposite, plate causes/will cause earthquakes and landslides in this part of the world, for as long as it will exist.

Palpa, to us, was just a small town on the way to Nasca, until we passed through there. Afterwards, we found out it has its own enormous share of lines, similar to the Nasca ones, yet distinctively different: if the Nasca lines are “classical”, the Palpa lines are “archaic” or “preclassical” (to use words usually applied to works done in other parts of the world). The Nasca lines have a minimalist refinement, a distinctive draughtmanship that links them all together – in spite of the great variety of shapes you may see during the flight. The Palpa ones (which we did not see from the air) seem less precise, earthier, perhaps more “contemporary” in their very archaism. They do not seem to follow a uniquely well-defined draughtmanship, they are more like sketchbooks (the size of fields in the desert!) or perhaps (pushing the analogy) like works made by the likes of Twombly in more recent times.

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