Ancient, 37 Metre-Wide Drawing of Cat Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru

Ancient, 37 Metre-Wide Drawing of Cat Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru
The 2,000-year-old drawing of a cat in the Nazca Desert of Peru. (Image: Peru’s Ministry of Culture-Nasca-Palpa, AP)

An oversized cat drawing has been discovered on a hill at the famous Nazca Lines site in Peru. The impressive artwork dates back some 2,000 years and measures over 36.58 metres across.

The feline geoglyph was literally right under our noses all along.

The drawing is located on the slope of Mirador Natural Hill, which hosts the Natural Viewpoint (la Pampa de Nasca) at the top — an ideal place to observe the Nazca lines located in the region. Workers discovered the drawing by accident during upgrades to the lookout, according to a press release issued by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. The site is in the Nazca Desert, some 400 kilometres south of Lima.

The figure was barely discernible, which is why it remained unknown until now.  (Image: Peru’s Ministry of Culture-Nasca-Palpa, AP) The figure was barely discernible, which is why it remained unknown until now. (Image: Peru’s Ministry of Culture-Nasca-Palpa, AP)

The drawing, which was laid down nearly 2,000 years ago, was badly faded, which explains why it eluded detection for so long. The feline figure “was barely visible” and “about to disappear” on account of its location on a fairly steep slope and due to the effects of natural erosion, the Ministry of Culture said. Recent restoration work brought the cat into full view.

The geoglyph shows the cat in profile, with its head turned toward the viewer. The feline figure stretches 37 metres, and the lines of the drawing measure between 30 to 40 cm thick. They were made by removing the top layer of rocks and exposing the bright bedrock beneath.

A closer view of the feline geoglyph, with workers for scale.  (Image: Peru’s Ministry of Culture-Nasca-Palpa, AP) A closer view of the feline geoglyph, with workers for scale. (Image: Peru’s Ministry of Culture-Nasca-Palpa, AP)

The style of the drawing dates it to the Late Paracas period, from around 200 to 100 BCE. Cats were a popular motif among the Paracas people (an Andean society), as they are seen on many of their textiles and ceramics.

This is, technically speaking, not a Nazca drawing but a Paracas drawing, as the site predates Nazca culture, according to the Ministry statement. It’s believed that the early drawings made by the Paracas culture had a big influence on the later Nazca lines. Collectively, these huge artworks, which were created over the course of 1,000 years, from around 500 BCE to 500 CE, are formally known as the Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca and Palpa and are designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. This handsome cat can now be added to the list of lines and geoglyphs found in the region.

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Other zoomorphic geoglyphs in the Nazca and Palpa region depict hummingbirds, monkeys, and pelicans. Anthropomorphic and geometrical depictions are also common, strewn across an area measuring around 450 square kilometres.

Why people produced such large artworks on the ground isn’t entirely clear, but one possibility is that they were made to be seen by deities in the sky. The drawings likely carried deep meaning and symbolism, providing a glimpse into the spiritual life of these very creative ancient communities.